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Highly Commended in the International Category of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards

A Giant Work in Progress

I am writing a book. Or rather, I’m about to start writing a book. I actually have a deadline for it, because it’s under contract. My first ever, for a writing project. So I’m excited and nervous and… procrastinating. It’s on my mind a lot, but that’s as far as I’ve got.

So I thought I would write a blog post about the book, to formally announce it; the more people know about it, the more pressure I’ll feel. And then maybe I could update you every now and then on lessons learned and my (non) progress.

Perhaps I should begin at the beginning. It all started with a message through Twitter at the end of August last year. A UK publisher contacted me to ask if I had any suggestions for titles for a new natural history imprint of theirs; Pen & Sword found me via BBC Wildlife Magazine’s list of people they followed on Twitter (you see, it does pay to invest time in social media!). One thing led rapidly to another, as they say, and a few months ago I signed the contract for a non-fiction popular/scientific book on giant otters and their conservation. In the process of having the contract vetted, I also became a member of The Society of Authors. At the time, I confess to feeling both bewildered and a trifle smug about this unanticipated turn of events.

Why giant otters, I hear you ask? Well, I have been involved with this engaging and endangered species in one way or another since 1998. That’s almost two decades now. I’ve monitored them in the field, written academic papers, self-published a book, participated in otter conferences, even starred in a couple of documentaries for German TV. Once or twice I’ve thought my time with giant otters was done, that I should move on, but no, they’re not letting me go. Or rather, I keep going back to them…

Believe it or not, I have already been asked to send some photos, a blurb, and key selling points for the book, and a jacket has already been designed, commented on, and approved. This for a book that is only scheduled for publication in November 2018!

So I will leave you now with what I hope is a tantalising glimpse of the final product-to-be. And I hope you will join me on this new – and scary! – stage of my career as nature writer.


The Giant Otter: Giants of the Amazon

The Giant Otter: Giants of the Amazon, by Jessica Groenendijk, Words from the Wild

Get to know one of South America’s most captivating and endangered mammals.

Lavishly illustrated with spectacular, full colour images of giant otters and other Amazon wildlife and their habitats.

The authoritative text on giant otters and their conservation, including findings from the latest research.

Written in an accessible and engaging language.

Includes excerpts from journal entries plus personal anecdotes of adventures in the field, sharing the wonders, and lows, of life in the rainforest.


The aptly named giant otter is exceptionally well adapted to life in rivers, lakes and wetlands in tropical South America. Known in Spanish as lobo del rio or 'river wolf', it can be as long as a human is tall, and is the most social of the world's thirteen otter species. Each individual is identifiable from birth by its pale throat pattern, as unique as your fingerprint. Giant otters are top carnivores of the Amazon rainforest and have little to fear... except man.​

There are many reasons why scientists and tourists alike are fascinated by this charismatic species. Spend a day in the life of a close-knit giant otter family and you’ll realise why. Learn about their diet and hunting techniques, marking and denning behaviour, and breeding and cub-rearing strategies, including shared care of the youngest members. Become familiar with the complex life histories of individual otters over their 15-year lifespans. And accompany a young disperser during the trials and tribulations of a year spent looking for a mate and a home of its own.

Although giant otters have few natural enemies, they became the target of the international pelt trade in the 1940s, and by the early 1970s had been hunted to the brink of extinction. Today, illegal hunting is a minor hazard. So why is the giant otter still endangered? Find out about current threats to the species and discover how a variety of conservation actions are benefiting the otters over the last decades. Then be a part of the solution by acting on the steps we can all take to help further giant otter conservation.

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