Longleat Safari Park in the UK is delighted to announce the birth of two otter pups although contrary to normal Longleat practice, the pups are being totally hand reared as human intervention became necessary to save the tiny two. Deputy Head of Section, Beverley Allen, took up the role of mum to the intrepid pups. “We try and maintain a hands off approach with any newborn at Longleat as nine times out of ten, mum is the best bet” explained Beverley. “We soon realized however that mum, Rosie, was just not producing enough milk and we’d have to step in to save their young lives”.
“I have to admit that being full time mum to two pups is pretty hard work. I’m feeding them by hand every 3½ hours on artificial puppy rearing milk, which is the next best thing to mum’s milk.
“They are now around four weeks old and their eyes should be opening in the next week or so. They’re completely helpless at the moment and are entirely reliant on me to look after them."
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“They are coming home with me every night and sleeping in my spare bedroom. We’ve given them a shoe box to sleep in with a soft cuddly otter toy to keep them company and a heat mat to emulate the warmth that mum would provide. I’m trying not to handle them too much as ideally we’d like to introduce them back into the otter group once they’ve reached full weaning age at around 130 days. I’m sure that this won’t stop me popping them into the bath at home though as from about 10 weeks we’ll start introducing them to water!”
“This isn’t the first time that I’ve hand reared some of the Longleat offspring. It was a baby wallaby last time who lived in a rucksack on my front for about six months. These otter pups are definitely less bouncy than she was although I may change my mind on that as they start growing up!”
The two pups were born to Rosie (11 years) and Romeo (6 years). The pair were introduced to each other five years ago and it was love at first sight. Otters pair for life and Rosie has already had successful litters at Longleat. It’s not clear why at the moment she’s not producing enough milk for these two but everyone is hopeful that Bev’s hand rearing magic is paying off as the two have taken well to the bottle and are putting on weight each day that goes by.
As their name suggests, Asian Short Clawed Otters are found in southern Asia including parts of Malaysia and Thailand, although their range is thought to be diminishing due to a variety of factors, including loss of habitat.
They are the smallest of the otter species at only 65-90cm long and weighing less than 5kg. They are also the most dexterous with short claws on their front paws for digging in mud and lifting rocks.