To bring extinct great otters back in Argentina, the LA Zoo sent Rosario

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Giant otters have no language barriers.

And Rosario, a 63.9-pound grey giant otter with white spots on her chest who has lived at the Los Angeles Zoo is about to find that out.

In mid-May she flew by cargo plane in a travel crate accompanied by two members of the Los Angeles Zoo’s animal care team to Argentina to join a breeding program designed to reintroduce her species in a region where it has gone extinct.

The process, which includes an extensive licensing and permitting process, has been years-long in the making, starting before the pandemic.

The reintroduction program, led by Rewilding Argentina, the government of Corrientes, and Argentina’s National Parks Administration, marks the first time a giant otter from an Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoo has been sent to Argentina to contribute to their conservation efforts.

  • Los Angeles Zoo is the first U.S. zoo to send a giant otter to a reintroduction program in Argentina. She’s a girl and her name is Rosario. (Photo by Carl Myers, Los Angeles Zoo)

  • Los Angeles Zoo is the first U.S. zoo to send a giant otter to a reintroduction program in Argentina. She’s a girl and her name is Rosario. (Photo by Carl Myers, Los Angeles Zoo)

  • Los Angeles Zoo is the first U.S. zoo to send a giant otter to a reintroduction program in Argentina. She’s a girl and her name is Rosario. (Photo by Carl Myers, Los Angeles Zoo)

  • Los Angeles Zoo is the first U.S. zoo to send a giant otter to a reintroduction program in Argentina. She’s a girl and her name is Rosario. (Photo by Carl Myers, Los Angeles Zoo)

    The trip took the eight-year-old Rosario 49 hours over two days.

    “Rosario and her male partner, a giant otter from a European zoo, are the third breeding pair in this program,” Candace Sclimenti, curator of mammals and the giant otter program leader at the Los Angeles Zoo, said in a prepared statement.

    Their offspring will be candidates for release into the wild in Iberá National Park, a national park in Argentina in the northeast province of Corrientes. Reintroduction programs such as Rewilding Argentina’s are valuable because they can revive locally extinct populations within their historic habitat.

    Rosario is currently in a mandatory quarantine period to ensure the health and safety of the other otters in the program. Once her quarantine is complete, probably in mid-June, she will be transported to a big “pre-release” corral on the shores of the Paraná Lagoon on San Alonso Island in Iberá National Park that contains a forest area and an aquatic area.

    It is hoped that the reintroduction of the giant otter in Argentina will help rebalance the ecosystem in the water and on land.

    “This project marks many firsts,” said Sebastián Di Martino, conservation director at Rewilding Argentina, in a prepared statement. “It’s the first time in history that humans are reintroducing the giant otter and the first time an extinct mammal is being reintroduced in Argentina. Further, Rosario, the giant otter, is the first animal from the United States that we are incorporating into a reintroduction project led by Rewilding Argentina.”

    International cooperation is crucial to carry out an ambitious project such as this one, Di Martino added.

    Rewilding Argentina started the giant otter reintroduction effort using giant otters from European zoos. As a result of that, the project has two breeding pairs. One pair has produced a litter of three pups and the other has produced a litter of four pups.

    But to ensure a genetically healthy and diverse population, giant otters from different gene pools are needed.

    Angelenos can still see giant otters at the Los Angeles Zoo in their habitat located in the zoo’s Rainforest of the Americas section.

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    About the Author
    Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.

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