Chester Zoo welcomes rare giant otter in bid to save species from extinction

Giant Otter Manú -Credit:Chester Zoo
Giant Otter Manú -Credit:Chester Zoo

A rare male giant otter has arrived at Chester Zoo to help save his species. The three-year-old male giant otter, named Manu, has travelled more than a thousand miles from Budapest Zoo after being chosen as the perfect genetic match for Chester’s female, Tibiri, aged eight.

The duo have been paired up as part of co-ordinated efforts between international zoos that are working to secure a future for the species. Zookeepers have now released heartwarming images of the otters meeting for the very first time, where they are seen swimming and playing together.

Experts estimate that no more than 5,000 giant otters remain across South America and the species has already been wiped out in Uruguay and Argentina. The decline in numbers is a result of mass-scale deforestation, water pollution and illegal hunting.

READ: The Cheshire parents left 'broken' as they are made to fight for their children's education | Parents across the UK are battling against a national shortage of places in SEND schools - but the problems in Cheshire West go far beyond what is experienced throughout the country

READ: Warning of disruption as work to replace 100-year-old gas pipe set to start | Cadent is upgrading the gas network to properties on a main road in Broughton

The world’s authority on the state of nature, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has now listed the species as endangered – meaning they face a very high chance of becoming extinct in the future. Conservationists at the zoo say the international breeding programme is now vitally important to the future of the species and that they are hopeful that Manú and Tibiri will go on to have pups together.

Anna Starkey, carnivore keeper at Chester Zoo, said: "Since arriving at the zoo only a few days ago, Manú has settled into his new surroundings very quickly. He’s been carefully matched with female otter Tibiri, based on his important genetics, age and character. So far we’ve seen really positive signs between the two and they can be heard using a range of vocalisations while playfully swimming together, which shows us that they’ve instantly bonded.

Manú has been paired up with Chester's female resident Tibiri -Credit:Chester Zoo
Manú has been paired up with Chester's female resident Tibiri -Credit:Chester Zoo

"We’re hopeful that, in their own time, they’ll eventually go on to have pups and help boost global giant otter numbers. Giant otters are the apex predators of their South American ecosystems and play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of freshwater habitats.

"They do this by hunting prey populations, keeping the health and biodiversity of their environments in check. But sadly, the wild population feel enormous pressures from pollution and mass deforestation which continue to threaten their survival altogether. It will now be the role of conservation zoos like ours to play a pivotal role in turning the tide and safeguarding their future on the planet."

Giant otters are the world’s largest species of otter and, in the Amazon, they are known as the ‘river wolf’ due to their large, razor sharp teeth and muscular bodies. Each otter has unique markings of white or cream fur on their throat and under their chin, which allows every individual to be identified by experts. Unusually, giant otter Manú does not have any markings and his throat is chestnut brown, which makes him easily identifiable from female, Tibiri.


  • Name: Giant Otters (Pteronura brasiliensis)

  • Habitat: Found in freshwater ecosystems throughout South America, including rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

  • IUCN status: Endangered

  • Main threats in the wild: Deforestation, habitat degradation, pollution, and illegal hunting.

  • Notable characteristics: Largest of all otter species, with a long, streamlined body and webbed feet for swimming.

NEWSLETTER: Sign up for CheshireLive email direct to your inbox here