Woodland Park Zoo’s four Asian Small-clawed Otter pups, born on June 11, mark the first offspring between 8-year-old father, Guntur, and 4-year-old mother, Teratai. Each pup's weight currently teeters around 1 pound. They are still nursing and will begin the weaning process around late August. Once they are weaned, their solid diet will consist of chopped smelt, capelin, and soaked cat food. In the meantime, the quadruplets are learning to walk, run, and jump -- and they whistle, squeal, and chirp while they do it! Their sexes have not yet been determined.
The Asian Small-clawed Otter is the smallest among the 13 Otter species. It ranges throughout southern and southeastern Asia, including areas of India, the Indonesian islands, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, southern China, and Palawan in the Philippines.
With rapidly declining habitat, range, and population, it was moved from Near Threatened to the more serious Vulnerable status in 2008. The population in the wild is unknown, with some estimates at 5,000 and others at far fewer. While all Otter species have protected status under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and killing is prohibited in most range countries, enforcement remains very limited. Poaching and water pollution remain the largest threats.
Photo Credit: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
According to Pat Owen, a collection manager at Woodland Park Zoo, the pups are beginning to play with each other and their parents. “They’re chewing on each other and wrestling. Their attempts at jumping result in poorly executed pounces but it’s downright adorable,” said Owen. “Our guests are going to have a wonderful time watching these little critters play outdoors once they reach a level of comfort and build their muscles and motor skills.”
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Before the pups are introduced outdoors, they must first pass a swimming test. “Their swim lessons will begin in a small, shallow tub. As the parents become experienced and comfortable with the pups in the water, the pups will graduate to a large indoor pool where they can be fully immersed to swim. It’s critical they can safely climb out of the exhibit’s outdoor pool and navigate the varied terrain,” explained Owen.
Because Otter parents and any older siblings play an active role in raising young pups, the parents and new family have been living off-view in the otter den. The pups will make their public debut later this summer in the new Bamboo Forest Reserve exhibit.
The Otter pups are part of the baby boom the zoo has enjoyed over the past several months, including quadruplet Lions born in November, twin Sloth Bears in December, triplet Jaguars in March, and a Porcupine in April. “We’re also on pins and needles waiting for a Giraffe birth any day now. No signs of labor yet,” said Owen.