Scientific Name:Chironectes minimus
IUCN Red List status:Least Concern
Protected by the following WLT projects:
- Misiones Rainforest Corrdor, Argentina
- The Atlantic Forest, Brazil
- Chaco/Pantantal Project, Paraguay
- Biodiversity of Sierra Gorda, Mexico
Species Range (IUCN)
The Water Opossum, also known as the Yapok, is a semi-aquatic marsupial. It has marbled grey and black water-repellent fur and webbed hind feet. Like all marsupials, Water Opossums have a pouch; this can be closed by a strong ring of muscles to make it watertight so that the young remain dry when the mother is immersed in water.
Water Opossums are nocturnal carnivores, with a diet comprising fish, crustaceans and insects. They use their long tail and webbed hind feet to propel themselves through the water, while the forefeet are used to feel for and grab prey as they swim. They build dens underground in the riverbank.
They mate in December and after a gestation period of 27 weeks, the female gives birth to a litter of up to five young. The young are born blind and naked and develop within the mother’s pouch until they are seven weeks old.
The Water Opossum can be found in freshwater streams in the forests of Mexico and Central and South America.
Threats and Conservation
The biggest threat to the species is the degradation of water courses that the Water Opossum requires. This may occur through Artisanal gold-mining, which is one of the most significant sources of mercury release into the environment.