Update, 2009: If you're looking for information about Raising Sancho or Carolina, there's been a lot of digital ink spilled on this blog about that very subject! Click here for a collection of posts, including one I wrote on 2/1/09 about what Carolina's doing now.
Here is some interesting information that Carolina Vargas has kindly shared with me. (See below for the other Sancho-inspired posts.) I hope she will let me know if I get anything wrong here!
Giant otters are quite endangered, and the main obstacle to studying them and conserving their populations is, of course, money. Dr. Vargas says that gathering biological information takes a great deal of time, and therefore, a large amount of money. Fortunately, there are some good researchers working on giant otter studies. The Frankfurt Zoological Society (which I linked in a previous post), is the oldest and best established, and is working in Peru. There is a support page, but it's in Euros, since the Society is located in Germany. There does not appear to be a means to pay by credit card on the site. When I have a moment later on, I will e-mail the Society and ask advice on how Americans might donate. (Does anyone reading this speak German?)
The first long term study on giant otters was conducted in Suriname by Nicole Duplaix. I found links to several of her papers in English here. (There is additional information on that website as well.)
Brazil has 3/4 of the giant otters' distribution, mostly in the Pantanal and the Amazon. Since watching the show and doing these posts, I've been reading a lot about the Pantanal. For Americans, think of it as an inland Everglades, except much, much bigger and even more biodiverse. In fact, the Pantanal is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.
I'm actually thinking about traveling there during the next dry season (right now is the last part of the dry season. The wet season begins in November). My family may have some time to travel in the coming year, and we have been trying to decide where to go. This morning, Dr. Vargas kindly e-mailed a link to the eco-lodge where her studies and her work with Sancho occurred. You will recognize it if you browse the website. Fishing is not permitted there, so the giant otters are doing very well, and its common to see them during the dry season. (Remember the large family of ten from the show?) I hope to be able to go, but the events of the next several months are a bit uncertain for me. We'll see!
Carolina, if you are still checking in, I just thought of a question: You mentioned that you were involved with wildlife rehabilitation before you worked with Sancho. What animals did you work with while you were doing that? What circumstances led you to begin working with giant otters? (Okay, so that's two questions.)
Update: Oops! I need to read more carefully. I unintentionally failed to include the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has been a source of funding for giant otter studies in the past, as well as Dr. Vargas's work. Donation page here. (There is also a link for "specific donation opportunities" on that page.)
And updated again: Carolina adds three Brazilian organizations doing important otter research. (These pages are in Portuguese, but you can use google translator to translate the page into English.) The first two are governmental organizations, and the last one is nongovernmental:
Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (Amazon Research Institute), EMBRAPA Pantanal, and the Ecolontras Project. (I have been having trouble with that last link. I don't know whether their server is down or if perhaps my computer is the problem.)