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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3 otterPhoto credits: Oregon Zoo

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

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.

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!


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.


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. 




Photo Credit Woodland Park Zoo

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

Otter trio

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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Perth Zoo's Four Otter Pups Start Swimming Lessons - Taught by Older Brothers!

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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.”

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Otter fish

Pictures courtesy of Perth Zoo.

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:

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Baby Otters: Rascals of the Rhino Yard


Two baby Oriental Small-clawed Otters born in April at Switzerland's Zoo Basel are providing endless entertainment as they play with the Rhinoceros family that shares their exhibit.




Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel

The first time that one-year-old bull Rhinoceros Jari came to the enclosure, the otters all ran along behind him and boldly nipped his hind legs. Fortunately, Jari has very thick skin – and lucky for the otters, Jari’s mother chose to chastise them by simply ignoring them and walking off.

When the Otters aren’t pestering the Rhinos, they are often followed around by young wild Crows, who peck them from behind with their beaks.  When the inter-species conflict subsides, the adult Otters are teaching the two youngsters their Otter ABCs. The first lesson: how to dive without drowning.

Zoo Basel’s Otter/Rhino enclosure is specifically designed to meet the needs of these agile little rascals. Aside from dens where they can produce their young, the exhibit is surrounded by a shallow stream where the Otters search for food.  Basking areas and the tree stump are also popular, offering visitors a wonderful view of the animals. 

Oriental Small-clawed Otters are one of the few Otter species to live together in large extended families. They live in Asia next to rivers and shallow waters, and feed primarily on smaller aquatic life, such as Snails and Mussels. Unlike other Otters, they do not hunt for fish in deep water, but instead feel around in the watery sludge for food using their finger-like paws. When they catch something, they first wash it before chowing down.

See more photos of the Otters below the fold.

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Potter Park Zoo's River Otter Pup Raised With Orphans as Sibling Trio

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Michigan's Potter Park Zoo has announced the addition of three North American River Otter pups. Only one was born there, but all three will be raised together. Back on the morning of February 19, the zoo's Otter named Jilly gave birth to a single pup. Due to complications at birth, the pup, named Miles, is being hand-reared. His health improved drastically because of the quick action and continued care by Potter Park Zoo’s animal care staff. 

Then, in late April, zoo officials opted to adopt two orphaned Otter pups from Alexandria Zoo in Louisiana through the Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). The siblings are named Bonnie and Clyde and were also born in February, so all three pups are the about the same age. Now Keepers and Vet staff are raising the three pups together. All three are energetic, playful and learning how to swim, and were just introduced to their exhibit very recently with their keepers all around them. 

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Photo Credit: Potter Park Zoo

“Miles marks the first Otter pup ever to be born at Potter Park Zoo,” says Dr. Tara Harrison, veterinarian at Potter Park Zoo. “It worked out well to adopt Bonnie and Clyde shortly thereafter, because Otters are social animals and like to have friends to learn with.” 

Read more about the pups and see more pictures after the fold:

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Wee Pile 'o Otter Pups Born at Emmen Zoo

Otter emmen pile

How many furry heads do you see in that Otter pup pile? There are four Asian Small-clawed Otters in all, born at Emmen Zoo in mid April. For the most part, keepers have left the babies alone to bond with mom and the other members of the family, who all pitch in, though  a vet check on May 21, it was determined that two were boys and two were girls! Newborn Otters are blind, deaf and totally dependent on their parents. They nurse for about seven weeks before they begin to start on solid foods. This is also about the time they open their eyes. Both Otter parents help to raise their pups, often assisted by previous offspring!

The smallest species of otter in the world, weighing less than 11 pounds (5 kg), they are considered Vulnerable by the IUCN, due to ongoing habitat loss, pollution, and hunting. They are found in fresh water in the wetlands, rivers and marshy areas along the coast in the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, India, southern China,Taiwan, Laos, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and  Burma.

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Otter vet check crop
Photo Credit: Emmen Zoo

Asian Small-clawed Otters (Aonyx cinerea) are named as such because its claws, as you can see, do not grow past the pads of its partially webbed digits. This allows them to use their paws much like we use our hands, which helps when on a diet of feed on mollusks, crabs and shellfish.

Otter Pup Trio Makes a Splash at Oakland Zoo


After successful swimming lessons and healthy checkups, three male River Otter pups are now on exhibit at Oakland Zoo. They were born to Ginger, on the morning of February 24, 2013. Each baby weighed approximately 0.3 pounds at birth or about 136 grams. They now weigh around 4.5 pounds. The pups are named Kohana (swift), Hinto (blue), and Shilah (brother). 




North American River Otters are found in most of the United States and Canada. They enjoy a diet of fish, crayfish, frogs, turtles, and aquatic invertebrates. Spending most of their time on land, they are nursed by their mom for one month and are weaned at about 3-4 months. They then begin to venture out of the burrow/den to play and learn how to swim.


Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

Feisty Otter Pups Get Check-Up at Chester Zoo


Back on January 31st, Chester Zoo in the UK welcomed two new Asian Small-Clawed Otter pups to their family. For the past two months the otters have been exploring their exhibit with their mother Daisy and father Robbie.  Recently, the young otters finally got their first check up.

Veterinarians were able to sex both pups, a boy named Wallace and a girl named Dili. They also were able to weigh the little otters and ensure they are in good health. "Little otter Wallace weighed in at 730 grams and Dili was a little lighter than 680 grams. Both proved to be fairly feisty characters but they are extremely healthy indeed so we are very happy with them. As they continue to grow and become even more confident, we're looking forward to seeing them take to the water," said veterinarian Steve Unwin. "Zoos provide the last insurance policy against extinction and these new arrivals will hopefully now continue to develop and become a vital part of the international breeding program to safeguard the species," he continued.



Asian Small-Clawed Otters are native to Southeast Asian, India, Taiwan, Southern China and the Philippines. Their name comes from their very dexterous and agile front paws which act much like hands. These aide them in capturing and processing their diet of crabs, snails, insects and small fish.

Photo Credits: Steve Rawlins / Chester Zoo

Asian Small-Clawed Otters are the smallest of all otter species. They are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN due diminishing populations numbers that are a result of habitat loss and overfishing of their prey among others. Because of this, Chester Zoo's otters are part of a European breeding program that aims to provide a safety-net to wild populations.