Otter

UPDATE: Ziggy the Otter Learns to Swim at Oregon Zoo

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Ziggy, a two-month-old North American River Otter at the Oregon Zoo, is living up to his name as he learns to swim with the help of his mom, Tilly.

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Photo Credit:  Shervin Hess, courtesy Oregon Zoo

 
The pup, born November 8 and named after Oregon’s Zigzag River, is growing into his name, keepers say — zigging this way and that and scampering away from his mom, Tilly, when she tries to lead him indoors.  “He’s a little motorboat,” said senior keeper Julie Christie. 

“Otter pups are very dependent on their mother and they don’t know how to swim right away,” said Christie. “The mother actually has to teach them.”

Tilly is experienced in giving swim lessons – Ziggy’s older brother Molalla, nicknamed Mo, learned to swim under her tutelage just last year. 

Recently Tilly has been offering similar instruction to Ziggy, nudging her new pup to the water’s edge and then plunging in with a firm grip on the scruff of his neck, just as Otter moms do in the wild.

“Tilly has been teaching Ziggy to do some deep dives,” Christie said. “Otter pups are very buoyant, so it takes them a little bit to learn how to go underwater.”

Both of Ziggy’s parents — mom, Tilly, and dad, B.C. — are rescue animals who had a rough start to life.

Tilly was found orphaned in 2009. She was about 4 months old, had been wounded by an animal attack and was seriously malnourished. Once her health had stabilized, Tilly came to the Oregon Zoo.   B.C. was also orphaned in 2009 and after being taken in by the Little Rock Zoo, moved to Oregon as a companion for Tilly.

North American River Otters are relatively abundant in healthy river systems in parts of their range, but were extirpated (locally extinct) in many areas of the United States in the 20th century.  Thanks to reintroduction programs, Otters have been reestablished in several states.   


Rescued Sea Otter Pup Comes to Monterey Bay Aquarium

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A rescued male Sea Otter pup recently went on exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The rescue, for now named Otter 649, was stranded in November on Jalama Beach in Santa Barbara County as a three-week-old pup, weighing less than seven pounds (3.2 kg). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared him to be non-releasable, and authorized the aquarium to raise him on exhibit. 

He was admitted into the aquarium's veterinary intensive care unit, where he was well cared for. Now 13 weeks old and weighing 16 pounds (7.25 kg), Otter 649 is robust and healthy. He has a friend, too! His interactions with his otter companion, Gidget, will help the younger otter learn how to socialize with other exhibit animals. 

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Easy to recognize with his smaller size and uniformly black, velvet-like fur, the young rescue will remain on exhibit as long as husbandry staff continue to see positive interactions with Gidget. Like the other Sea Otters on exhibit, Gidget is also a rescue who would not have been able to survive in the wild. The exhibit otters act as companions, mentors, and surrogate mothers for the aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation program. Otter 649 is the first pup that Gidget has mentored.

Eventually, Otter 649 will be transferred to another aquarium accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. He will be named at his new home. 

Otter 649 is the sixth pup to go on exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium. He is the 649th stranded otter to be brought into the aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation program since 1984. Learn more about the aquarium's efforts to save this endangered species here.


Giant Otters Start Out Small at Zoo Miami

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Zoo Miami is home to a new litter of highly endangered Giant Otters!  The two male pups were born on December 19 and are currently in a secluded den off of exhibit being raised by their mother, Kara and their father Witoto.  Kara was born at the Philadelphia Zoo and Witoto is on loan from the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Natural Resources in Brazil.  This is the fifth successful litter produced by this pair at Zoo Miami.

At nearly 5 weeks old, the two pups are just now beginning to open their eyes and will remain in the den for the next several weeks prior to being introduced to their exhibit. 

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Though they are only about two feet (60 cm) long and weigh approximately four pounds (.9 kg) at this time, they may grow to be nearly six feet (1.8 m) long and weigh close to 75 pounds (34 kg) as adults.  Commonly called 'River Wolves' in their native habitat, Giant Otters are found in isolated and remote areas within some fresh water lakes, rivers, creeks, and reservoirs of tropical South America.  Their numbers have been drastically reduced due to fur hunting and habitat destruction.  In the wild, they feed mainly on fish, but have also been known to eat caiman and snakes.  They are highly social and can be found in family groups of 10-12 animals with a lifespan of approximately 12 years in the wild and up to 21 years in captivity.


Sea Otter Mom and Pup Visit Monterey Bay Aquarium

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A wild Sea Otter mom took her pup for a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium! The pair spent the day hanging out in the aquarium's nearby Great Tide Pool, much to the excitement of visitors and staff. 

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Photo credits: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sea Otters are an Endangered species found along the northern and eastern coasts of the North Pacific Ocean. They were hunted extensively for their warm, soft fur from the mid-1700s through the early 1900s. Now protected, they have rebounded well in some areas. They are considered a 'keystone' species in kelp forest habitats: Sea Otters eat and limit the numbers of sea urchins, which otherwise overgraze and extensively damage kelp forest ecosystems. Kelp forests are home to an amazing diversity of life, and serve as important 'nursery' habitats for young fish. 

The Monterey Bay Aquarium monitors wild Sea Otter populations, conducts important research, and rehabilitates stranded Sea Otter pups for release in the wild. Learn more about their work in Sea Otter conservation here.

And, see a video of the visiting otters here!


Oregon Zoo's Otter Pup Has a Name!

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A North American River Otter pup born at the Oregon Zoo on November 8 now has a name!  The zoo’s River Otter staff came up with three waterway-inspired names for their fans to choose from, and the winner is…Zigzag, or Ziggy for short.  

Nearly half of the 8,000 voters chose this name over two other options, Willamette and Trask.  All three names are references to Oregon rivers.

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ZooBorns first reported on the birth of this pup here.  Born to experienced mother Tilly, the pup has been growing quickly under her diligent care.  Young River Otters are completely dependent on their mothers, and even need to be taught how to swim. 

North American River Otters are relatively common in the Pacific Northwest, but are rare in other parts of the United States.  These sleek, playful mammals require healthy river systems to thrive.  They feed on mollusks, fish, crayfish, and other river fauna.

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Five Otter Pups Born at Greensboro Science Center

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Snuggled in a furry pile, five Asian Small-clawed Otter pups born at North Carolina’s Greensboro Science Center on November 11 are just beginning to open their eyes and explore the world.

The pups are the first litter of this species ever born at the facility.  For now, the pups remain behind the scenes with their parents, Jelly and Mark Lee.  The family will move into their exhibit sometime in January or February, at which time the pups will learn how to swim in the exhibit’s deep pool.    

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Photo Credit:  Greensboro Science Center

Jelly and Mark Lee came to the Science Center in the spring under the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan.  Asian Small-clawed Otters form monogamous pairs and mate for life. They are the smallest of the world's Otter species and inhabit swamps, rivers, and tidal pools in southeast Asia.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists these Otters as Vulnerable, due to habitat degradation, hunting, and pollution.

See more photos of the Otter pups below the fold.

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River Otter Delivers Her Second Pup at Oregon Zoo

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Tilly, a North American River Otter at the Oregon Zoo, gave birth to a pup on November 8 —her second this year. The new arrival weighed just shy of 5 ounces (28.3 g) at birth and has nearly tripled that thanks to mom’s naturally high-fat milk.

“We’re pretty sure this pup’s a male,” said Julie Christie, the zoo’s senior North America keeper. “But Tilly is very protective, so we can’t be positive until our vets conduct a more thorough exam.”

Tilly and her pup are currently in a private maternity den, and it will 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.

“Young River Otters are very dependent on their moms, and Tilly has been very nurturing,” said Christie. “She did a great job with her first pup, Mo, earlier this year. She raised him up from this tiny, helpless creature into the sleek, agile, full-grown otter he is today. We’re confident Tilly will be a great mom to her new pup as well.”

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Surprisingly, swimming does not come naturally to River Otters; pups must be taught to swim by their moms. Earlier this year, this video of Tilly teaching Mo to swim drew more than half a million views on the zoo’s YouTube channel.

 

Take a peek behind the scenes as the newborn pup is weighed:

 

Keepers have yet to decide on a name for the new pup, though it is likely he will be named after a local river or waterway. (Mo is short for Molalla, after the Molalla River.)

North American River Otters typically give birth from late winter to spring, but Tilly seems to be on her own schedule, keepers say. The breeding season for River Otters is December through April, and actual gestation only lasts a couple of months. Unlike their European cousins however, North American River Otters usually delay implantation so that the time between conception and birth can stretch to as much as a year. That hasn’t been the case with Tilly. 

Christie said it is also unusual — though not unheard of — for an otter to give birth to a single pup, as Tilly has now done twice. Litters usually consist of two or three pups, though the range is anywhere from one to six. Family groups typically consist of an adult female otter and her pups, with males moving away once they reach adulthood.

Since both Tilly and the pup’s father, B.C., were born in the wild, they and their offspring are considered genetically important for the breeding otter population in North American zoos. Both parents are rescued animals who had a rough start to life.

Tilly, named after the Tillamook River, was found orphaned near Johnson Creek in 2009. She was about four months old, had been wounded by an animal attack and was seriously malnourished. Once her health had stabilized, Tilly came to the Oregon Zoo in a transfer facilitated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which oversees the species’ protection. 

The pup’s father, B.C. (short for Buttercup), was found orphaned near Star City, Ark., also in 2009. He was initially taken in by the Little Rock Zoo, but transferred to Oregon the following year as a companion for Tilly. The two otters hit it off quickly and have been playful visitor favorites ever since.

Now that the threat from fur trappers has declined, North American River Otters are once again relatively abundant in healthy river systems of the Pacific Northwest and the lakes and tributaries that feed them. Good populations exist in suitable habitat in northeast and southeast Oregon, but they are scarce in heavily settled areas, especially if waterways are compromised. Because of habitat destruction and water pollution, River Otters are considered rare outside the Pacific Northwest.

Metro, the regional government that manages the Oregon Zoo, has preserved and restored more than 90 miles of river and stream banks in the region through its voter-supported natural area programs. By protecting water quality and habitat, these programs are helping to provide the healthy ecosystems needed for otters, fish and other wildlife to thrive. River Otters are frequently observed in Metro region waterways.


Pup is the First Giant Otter Ever Born in Asia

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The first Giant Otter to be born in all of Asia arrived at River Safari, part of Wildlife Reserve Singapore, on August 10.   River Safari is the only zoo in Asia to hold Giant Otters, which are among the most endangered Otters in the world.

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Photo Credit:   Wildlife Reserves Singapore

The unnamed male pup now weighs about 3.5 pounds (1.6kg) and is about two feet long (60cm). While the pup is petite for now, he will eventually weigh 75 pounds (34kg) and grow to six feet (1.8m) in length.  River Safari is the first zoological institution in Asia to feature Giant Otters, which are the largest of the world’s 13 Otter species.

Found primarily in South America’s Amazon River basin, Giant Otters are ferocious predators that hunt piranhas, anacondas and even caimans, earning them the title “river wolves.” Often hunted for their fur and threatened by habitat loss, these river giants are becoming rare in the wild.

Dr. Cheng Wen-Haur, Chief Life Sciences Officer at Wildlife Reserves Singapore said, “With increasing threats such as habitat destruction and poaching, captive breeding programs play a pivotal role in conserving threatened species for our future generations.”


UPDATE: Woodland Park Zoo Otter Pups Are Boys!

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First time Asian Small-Clawed Otter parents Guntur and Teratai have their hands full! After their first vet exam, the Woodland Park Zoo has learned that their four pups are all boys. First seen here on Zooborns, the 9-week old quadruplets are healthy and hitting all of their developmental benchmarks. Still, the pups spend most of their time eating, sleeping and playing. Like most brothers, their play consists of pouncing and chewing on each other.

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Behind the scenes, swimming lessons have began for the pups. With mom's help, the pups are slowly beginning to feel comfortable around water. They've started to dip their mouths in a small, shallow tub. Mom dips her mouth, then touches the pups’ mouths with hers. Once the pup's have learned to swim, they will be introduced to the outdoor exhibit. The pups will also begin weaning from mom in late August. Mom and dad have began to share food. Soon they will be on a solid diet of smelt, capelin and soaked cat food. 

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Photo Credit Woodland Park Zoo


Woodland Park Zoo Otter Quadruplets Learn to Jump, Run and Whistle!

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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.

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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.”

Read more after the fold:

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