Four Asian Small-clawed Otter pups, seen here with their older siblings, were born on March 23 to parents Asia and Tuan at Australia’s Perth Zoo. They've recently begun to venture out of their nest box to explore their surroundings and take a dip. The two males and two females are the third litter born at Perth Zoo in the past 12 months as part of an Australasian breeding program for the species.
The pups have begun taking swimming lessons from their four male older siblings in the afternoons. The big brothers also carry food into the nest box for the youngsters! Though the female is dominant, the males take an active role in rearing pups, including nest building, supplying food to the female and pups during weaning, and teaching the pups to swim. Senior vet, Dr. Simone Vitali, said, “This is very important to the development of the older male siblings, as well as important for the regional breeding program.”
The Asian Small-clawed Otter is the smallest of the 13 otter species, weighing just 3.5kg when fully grown. They live in streams, rivers, marshes, and rice paddies, and also along sea coasts and in mangroves. They are found in parts of India, southern China, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
See more pictures and continue reading the pups' story after the fold:
Swimming lessons were temporarily put on hold during Dr. Vitali's progress check of the 12-week-old water babies. Dr. Vitali gave them their vaccinations and a routine health check and reports, “They are looking very healthy and progressing well, weighing between 550 and 780 grams each. These pups are quite active for their age, possibly due to the fact that they have older siblings.”
The breeding success follows the arrival in Perth in 2011 of four new breeding animals from overseas zoos, providing new bloodlines for the regional breeding program. Last year, the older siblings were the first Otters born at the zoo in 18 years. The zoo's second Otter family, consisting of a breeding male and female and their four offspring (born last year), were transferred by air to their new home at Adelaide Zoo in mid-May as part of the same program.
The best time of day to see the pups is from 2:00-5:00 p.m., as they tend to take their swimming lessons and are generally out for a feed during this time.