Staff at Blue Planet Aquarium were amazed last week when their two little otter cubs emerged sporting white fur! Although these Asian small-clawed otter pups were born in March, they spent the last few weeks huddled away with mom in the den and keepers just got their first glimpse. Exhibits manager Tom Cornwell explained their unusual coloration, “Although perfectly healthy and full of energy we believe both the cubs are leucistic which is a rare condition where the animals’ fur develops without its natural pigment.”
RARE WHITE OTTER CUBS BORN
AT BLUE PLANET AQUARIUM
A pair of extremely rare white otter cubs have been born at the Blue Planet Aquarium, Cheshire Oaks.The duo are part of a litter of three baby Asian short claw otters born at the aquarium at the end of March.
It’s the first time otters have been born at the award-winning wildlife attraction and it was only when the cubs started appearing outside of their holt that keepers noticed their unusual colourings.
Exhibits Manager Tom Cornwell said: “Otter cubs can remain inside the holt for anything up to the first six or seven weeks of their lives. They’re born blind and are completely reliant on their parents to look after them.
“Normally the cubs – like their parents – are dark brown in colour so it came as a major surprise to see these two tiny white cubs running around!
“Although perfectly healthy and full of energy we believe both the cubs are leucistic which is a rare condition where the animals’ fur develops without its natural pigment,” he added.
Leucism is a very unusual condition whereby the cells responsible for pigment in an animal fail to develop properly. This can result in either white animals or an unusual patchy colouration known as piebald.
“We’ve been doing some checking but it would appear that this is a very rare occurrence indeed – there were sightings of a wild albino otter up in Scotland last year, but this is the first time we’ve seen anything like this in captivity in the UK,” said Tom.
Otters mate for life, with the female being the dominant partner. The life expectancy of Asian short claw otters in the wild is unknown, however in captivity they can live to at least 12 with some animals living beyond their 20th birthdays.