Otter

You ‘Otter’ See Brookfield Zoo’s New Pups

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The Chicago Zoological Society is thrilled to announce the birth of twin North American River Otter pups at Brookfield Zoo. The male and female pups, born on February 23, are the first successful births of this species in the Zoo’s history.

The adorable siblings are currently behind the scenes, bonding with their mom, learning how to swim. They are scheduled to make their public debut later this month.

The pups’ mother, Charlotte, arrived at Brookfield Zoo in June 2012 from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. The father, Benny, joined the Zoo family from Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri, in August 2004.

Otter mating typically occurs between December and April, with most births occurring between February and April of the following year. Pups are born with their eyes closed, fully furred, and weighing about 4 ounces.

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3_North American river otter pups (38 days old)Photo credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society (Image 1: 18 days old / Image 2: 33 days old / Image 3: 38 days old)

The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) is a participant in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) North American River Otter Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative population management and conservation program for the species. The program manages the breeding of Otters in zoos to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.

The North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to the North American continent found in and along its waterways and coasts. It is a member of the subfamily Lutrinae in the weasel family (Mustelidae).

An adult River Otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 30.9 lb). The River Otter is protected and insulated by a thick, water-repellent coat of fur.

North American River Otters, like most predators, prey upon the most readily accessible species. Fish is a favored food, but they also consume various amphibians (such as salamanders and frogs), freshwater clams, mussels, snails, small turtles and crayfish.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists these Otters as “Least Concern”, meaning that the populations are very stable. However, habitat degradation and pollution are major threats to their conservation.


Litter of Seven Otters Born at Wingham Wildlife Park

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On March 16, a female Smooth-coated Otter, living at Wingham Wildlife Park in Kent, UK, gave birth to seven beautiful babies.

The new mum, Pong, originally arrived at Wingham Wildlife Park in August 2011, from the Rare Species Conservation Centre, a small zoological park on the outskirts of Sandwich in Kent, which the team at Wingham Wildlife Park took over and re-branded as Sandwich Wildlife Park in January 2017.

Pong is now almost seven-years-old, and this is her second litter of pups, with her first litter having been moved to other zoos in the UK, France and even the Czech Republic. Just like the last litter of pups, the father is nine-year-old Bob, whose birthday is just one day after the babies on March 17.

Bob was named by the park's Facebook followers, along with his other girlfriend, “Sheila”. Bob arrived at Wingham Wildlife Park in January 2013 from the Saigon Zoo & Botanical Gardens in Southern Vietnam.

At present, there are 17 males and 16 females in Europe, and with many of these coming from a single pair imported in to the UK from Cambodia several years ago (Pong’s parents), more individuals, which are at least half unrelated to the rest of the European population, is once again good to see.

The park looks forward to Bob hopefully breeding with Sheila in the future, who came from Zoo Negara in Malaysia which would give some completely unrelated offspring in the European genepool. With 10 of these individuals living at Wingham Wildlife Park at present, this gives the park the largest collection of Smooth-coated Otters in Europe.

Having babies is always very exciting for the staff at Wingham Wildlife Park, and the keepers for those animals are always very proud when the babies are born and are growing well and looking healthy.

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4_20170413_082621(0)Photo Credits: Markus Wilder/ Wingham Wildlife Park (Image 2: Hollie Wetherill, Head of Carnivores at Wingham Wildlife Park, holding one of the pups)

On April 13, the babies were removed for just a short time from Pong to allow the head of carnivores, head keeper, and curator of the park to weigh the pups, give them a visual health check, microchip them and find out what sex they are. In the end, it turned out that the babies consisted of two females and five males: making the sex ratio in Europe almost equal. At four-weeks-old, especially with one mum rearing seven hungry mouths, their weights came up between 390g and 500g, with most of them weighing just over 390g, with one extra hungry baby in the bunch.

Tony Binskin, the owner of Wingham Wildlife Park said of the arrival, “It has been a couple of years since we last had baby Otters, so this was a really nice sight to see! Even though this is quite a few mouths to feed, we know from past experience that Pong is a great mum, and have no worries about her.”

At four-weeks-old, they now all have their eyes open, however they are still far from independent so it will still be a little while before they start to venture outside. For now, they are spending all their time curled up in a tight ball of babies in their nest box, which Pong had been preparing for a few days before giving birth.

When the babies start to venture outside it will be an exciting time for the staff at the park, as Tony finished by saying: “Baby Otters are definitely some of the most interesting animals in the whole park. It is always a very tense moment however when mum first teaches the babies about the water, as she picks them up, one by one, and dunks them in the pond. Just like the babies, we’re always at the side of the enclosure for this experience, holding our breaths until the swimming lesson is over!”

The Smooth-coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) is the only extant representative of the genus Lutrogale. This Otter species is found in most of the Indian Subcontinent and eastwards to Southeast Asia, with a disjunct population in Iraq. As its name indicates, the fur of this species is smoother and shorter than that of other Otters.

The Smooth-coated Otter is currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their range and population are shrinking due to loss of wetland habitat, contamination of waterways by pesticides, and poaching.

Park staff encourages fans of the new pups to check their Facebook page for updates about when these beautiful animals will start to venture outside and make their public debut: https://www.facebook.com/WinghamWildlifePark


Twin Otter Pups Born at Oregon Zoo

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Tilly, a North American River Otter, is raising two tiny pups, born February 26 at the Oregon Zoo. The new arrivals — one male and one female — weighed around 4 ounces each at birth and have already doubled that thanks to their mother's naturally high-fat milk.

"Young River Otters are extremely dependent on their moms, and Tilly has been very nurturing," said Julie Christie, senior keeper for the zoo's North America area. "She did a great job raising her first two pups, Mo and Ziggy, both born in 2013. And she was a terrific adoptive mom to Little Pudding, the orphan pup who was rescued from a roadside in 2015. We expect she'll do well with her new babies as well."

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Tilly and her pups are currently in a private maternity den, and it will likely be another month or two before visitors can see them in their Cascade Stream and Pond habitat. Young River Otters usually open their eyes after three to six weeks, and begin walking at about five weeks. Surprisingly, swimming does not come naturally to River Otters — pups must be taught to swim by their moms.

Keepers have yet to decide on a name for the two new pups, though it is likely they will be named after Oregon rivers or waterways like their older siblings.

"This will be the first time Tilly has raised more than one pup at a time," said curator Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo's North America and marine life areas. "It's exciting that they'll be growing up together and have the opportunity to play and wrestle with each other. Tilly's always been an extremely attentive mother, so it will be interesting to see what happens when her pups go in two different directions."

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Woodland Park Zoo's Otter Pups Pass First Vet Exam

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The four Asian Small-clawed Otters born at Woodland Park Zoo received their first veterinary examination last week. The zoo’s animal health team assessed their overall health, measured and weighed the pups, and administered vaccinations.

The wellness exam is a part of Woodland Park Zoo’s exemplary animal care program. The exam revealed the pups to be three males and one female. They currently weigh between 0.6 to 0.7 kilograms (1.3 to 1.5 pounds).

Dr. Darin Collins, Woodland Park Zoo’s director of animal health, gave the pups a clean bill of health. “We’re pleased to report all four pups are robust and healthy. They have fully round bellies and are within normal growth range at this age,” said Collins. “All pups have healthy appetites, are gaining increased mobility and are socializing with their family members, all good signs they’re thriving.”

ZooBorns introduced readers to the quad of cuteness in a recent article (found here), and we are more than happy to provide updates on their progress. The pups were born December 9 at Woodland Park Zoo to 7-year-old mother Teratai and 11-year-old father Guntur. The birth represents the third litter for the parents.

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3_ASCO pup exam-1_Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren_2.3.17Photo credit: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

The new pups currently live off view in a maternity den with their parents and three older sisters. Raising Otter pups is a family affair—the whole family plays a role in raising the pups. Mom nurses the newborns, and dad and older siblings provide supportive care. Occasionally, the adults go outdoors for short periods in the public exhibit but primarily spend their time indoors to focus on caring for the pups.

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Third Litter for Otter Parents at Woodland Park Zoo

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Four Asian Small-clawed Otters were born December 9 at Woodland Park Zoo, in Seattle, Washington, to 7-year-old mother Teratai and 11-year-old father Guntur.

The births represent the third litter for the parents. The sex of the pups has not been determined. The new pups currently live off exhibit in a maternity den with their parents and three older sisters.

“The whole family pitches in to raise the pups,” explained Pat Owen, a collection manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “Mom nurses the newborns, and dad and older siblings provide supportive care. Occasionally, the adults go outdoors in the public exhibit but not for long. They prefer staying indoors to focus on caring for the pups.”

The parents have successfully raised two previous litters to adulthood and are giving the same level of appropriate care to their new pups.

“Our animal care staff keeps a close eye on the new pups but remains hands off as much as possible with little to no intervention except for wellness exams,” said Owen.

This week, the zoo’s veterinary staff will perform the pups’ first neonatal exam, which will include weigh-ins and vaccinations.

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4_20170111_151157_STAMPPhoto Credits: Woodland Park Zoo

The Asian Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea syn. Amblonyx cinereus), also known as the Oriental Small-clawed Otter, is the smallest among the 13 otter species.

Gestation lasts 60 to 64 days. At birth, these otters weigh just 50 grams, no more than the weight of a golf ball. Born without the ability to see or hear, the pups depend on the nurturing care of both parents until they begin developing their senses at about 3 weeks old.

“The pups have fully opened their eyes and are becoming more mobile,” said Owen.

As their mobility increases, the parents and older siblings will teach them how to swim—first, in a plastic tub. After mastering the tub, they will graduate to the next level: the outdoor exhibit and large pool where they will be taught to dive a few inches deep in the large pool, with their vigilant family by their side. The pups will be officially introduced to zoo-goers when they can swim and safely navigate the outdoor exhibit.

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Rescued Sea Otter Pups Find a Home

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Found alone in frigid Alaskan waters last winter, two Sea Otter pups rescued as infants have found a permanent home at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.

Both pups were just a few weeks old when rescued – far too young to survive on their own. They were brought to Alaska SeaLife Center’s I.Sea.U where they each received 24-hour care.

The pups were deemed non-releasable by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services because without their mothers, the pups never learned basic survival skills. Vancouver Aquarium was asked to provide a long-term home for the pups. Accompanied by animal care professionals, the pups departed Alaska last week for their new home in Vancouver.

The pups do not yet have names.  Fans can help select their names by voting here through November 16.

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Photo Credit:  Daniela Ruiz/Alaska SeaLife Center


“After being found without their mothers and unable to care for themselves, these animals have been given a second chance at life,” said Brian Sheehan, curator of marine mammals at Vancouver Aquarium. “The ongoing care for a Sea Otter takes a tremendous amount of resources, and that role will continue here as our marine mammal team helps them integrate into their new home.”

Now weighing a healthy 12 kilograms, the male Sea Otter pup has been maintaining a steady diet, eating about 2.5 kilograms daily of clams, capelin, and squid. At 10.9 kilograms, the female otter eats about 2.0 kilograms of the same seafood mix.

Sea Otters face a number of challenges in the wild. During its first six months a Sea Otter pup is highly dependent on its mother for food and, without her, is unable to survive. Much of the mother’s energy is dedicated to the pup and, as a result, her health may decline over the feeding period. Female Sea Otters give birth every year so if she determines that she has a better chance of rearing a pup the following year, due to environmental factors or availability of prey, then she may abandon the pup before it’s weaned. In adult life, Sea Otters continue to face numerous threats including disease, oil spills, predation, interactions with fisheries and overharvest.

Ninety per cent of the world’s Sea Otters live in Alaska’s coastal waters. Within the state of Alaska, the Southeast and Southcentral stocks are stable or are continuing to increase. The Southwestern stock is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after experiencing a sharp population decline over the last two decades, attributed to an increase in predation from transient Killer Whales.

 


Chester Zoo’s Otter Pups Learn to Swim

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Five baby Otters have been thrown in at the deep end, while being taught how to swim, by their parents at Chester Zoo.

Mum, Annie, and dad, Wallace, took their new pups for their first proper dip in the water. The new pups recently emerged from their den, with their parents, for the first time since the quintet was born July 8th.

The new litter of Asian Short-clawed Otters, which currently weigh between 450g and 612g, is made up of two boys and three girls; all yet to be named by their keepers. This is the first litter for two-year-old Annie and four-year-old Wallace.

Fiona Howe, assistant otter team manager at the zoo, said, “While Otters might seem like born naturals in the water, even they need to be taught the basics in the early stages of their lives.

“Asian Short-clawed Otters are a highly social species and learning to swim is a real family effort. Mum Annie and dad Wallace have both been working together and, now that they are confident that each of the pups are ready to start swimming, they’ve been taking them by the scruffs of their necks and dropping them in at the deep end. All five of them are getting to grips with the water really, really quickly.

“Annie and Wallace are first time parents but they’re doing a fab job, sharing with the daily care of the pups, including grooming, babysitting and feeding.”

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3_Chester Zoo’s cute new otter pups given their first swimming lessons by mum Annie and dad Wallace (25)

4_Chester Zoo’s cute new otter pups given their first swimming lessons by mum Annie and dad Wallace (26)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

Asian Short-clawed Otters, which are found in various parts of Asia from India to the Philippines and China, are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “Vulnerable” to extinction. Experts believe the species is likely to soon become endangered, unless the circumstances increasing the threat to its survival improve.

Sarah Roffe, otter team manager, added, “Many of the wetlands where Asian Short-clawed Otters live are being taken over by humans for agricultural and urban development, while some otters are hunted for their skins and organs which are used in traditional Chinese medicines.

“It has led to a decline in their numbers - a rapid decline in some regions - and they are now listed as one of the world's most vulnerable species. That's why it's so important to support conservation projects to safeguard the future of this important species.”

As well as a successful record with breeding exotic Otter species, Chester Zoo has also helped fund research and conservation projects in Cheshire to monitor and safeguard native otter populations, which are distant relations of the Asian Short-clawed species.

The new pups are welcome addition to the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme, a carefully managed scheme overseeing the breeding of zoo animals in different countries.

The species is also sometimes to referred to as the Oriental Small-clawed Otter, or Small-clawed Otter. As their name suggests, they have short but very flexible, sensitive claws, useful for digging, climbing and also for grabbing and holding on to prey. They are the smallest of all otters, and in the wild, they live in small groups across Asia from India and Nepal to the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

They mainly eat crabs, other water creatures and fish.

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Take a Peek at Bronx Zoo's Otter Pup

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An Asian Small-clawed Otter pup made its public debut at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo in late April.

Born this spring, the pup is already dipping its toes in the family’s watery exhibit.

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Julie Larsen Maher_5826_Asian Small-clawed Otter_JUN_BZ_04 06 16_hrPhoto Credit:  Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
Like all Otters, the species is well adapted for a semi-aquatic life. Their elongated bodies and webbed feet make it easy for them to propel through the water. They have dexterous paws that aid in finding and consuming food, and their fur is extremely dense and waterproof for temperature regulation.

Asian Small-clawed Otters have a vast but shrinking Southeast Asian range that spans from India to the Philippines, Taiwan, and parts of southern China. The species is classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is threatened by habitat loss and exploitation.

 


Pueblo Zoo Has Their Hands Full of Cuteness

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The Pueblo Zoo is excited to share news of the birth of two North American River Otters. The pups were born to mom Freyja on March 8.

This is the second litter for Freyja, and the newest arrivals will stay with their mom, in the nest box, for at least eight weeks.

Freyja will have her hands full for the next few months. The pups will need to master their swimming skills before they can be visible to the public in the Zoo’s Otter Exhibit.

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The North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) is native to much of Canada and the United States (except for portions of the Southwest), and in Mexico-- in the Rio Grande and Colorado River delta areas.

They can thrive in any water habitat---as long as the habitat provides adequate food: ponds, marshes, lakes, rivers, estuaries and marshes (cold, warm or even high elevation).

They have thick, protective fur to help them keep warm while swimming in cold waters. They have short legs, webbed feet for faster swimming, and a long, narrow body and flattened head for streamlined movement in the water. A long, strong tail helps propels them through the water.

The River Otter can stay underwater for as much as eight minutes. They have long whiskers, which they use to detect prey in dark or cloudy water and clawed feet for grasping onto slippery prey. They are very flexible and can make sharp, sudden turns that help them catch fish. Their fur is dark brown over much of the body, and lighter brown on the belly and face. On land they can run at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.

Their diet consists of a variety of aquatic wildlife: fish, crayfish, crabs, frogs, birds’ eggs, birds and other reptiles such as turtles. They have also been known to eat aquatic plants and to prey on other small mammals, such as muskrats or rabbits. They are known to have a very high metabolism and need to eat frequently.

In the wild, River Otters breed in late winter or early spring and generally give birth to one to three pups. The young are blind and helpless when born and first learn to swim after about two months. River Otters generally live alone or in small social groups.

The North American River Otter is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, habitat degradation and pollution are major threats to their conservation. They are said to be highly sensitive to pollution, and the species is often used as a bio indicator because of its position at the top of the food chain in aquatic ecosystems.


Wild Sea Otter Gives Birth at Monterey Bay Aquarium

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A wild Southern Sea Otter mom, seeking shelter from stormy seas, gave birth to her pup in the ‘Great Tide Pool’ at Monterey Bay Aquarium on the afternoon of March 5. Guests and Aquarium staff were fortunate to witness the amazing birth of the wild pup.

Sea Otters can give birth in water or on land. The otter mom starts grooming her pup right away to help it stay warm and buoyant. Besides keeping the pup afloat, grooming also helps get the blood flowing and other internal systems revved up for a career of chomping on invertebrates and keeping near shore ecosystems, like the kelp forests in Monterey Bay, and the eel grass at Elkhorn Slough, healthy.

Monterey Bay’s Sea Otter researchers have been watching wild otters for years and have never seen a birth as close-up like this.

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4_WildSeaOtterPupAtMontereyBayPhoto Credits: Monterey Bay Aquarium

 

 

 

After a three-day stay, the wild Sea Otter mom and her fluffy pup headed out into Monterey Bay. There are busy days ahead as this otter mom will teach her pup how to dive, collect food and other skills needed for life in the wild.

By the time a pup is two months old, it’ll have shed most of its fluffy pup coat and be doing lots of exploring and diving. Soon it will be playing its role as a keystone species, keeping kelp-grazing sea urchins in check.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Otter Program has been studying the threatened Southern Sea Otter since 1984 with the aim of understanding threats to the population and promoting its recovery. They also rescue, treat and release injured otters; raise and release stranded pups through a surrogate program; and seek homes for Sea Otters that can't return to the wild.

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