Otter

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.”

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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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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.

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Baby Otters: Rascals of the Rhino Yard

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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.

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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.

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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.” 

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Wee Pile 'o Otter Pups Born at Emmen Zoo

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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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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

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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). 

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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.

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Photo Credit Oakland Zoo


Feisty Otter Pups Get Check-Up at Chester Zoo

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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.

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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.

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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.


Mom Gives Swimming Lessons to Oregon Zoo's Baby Otter

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Mo, a North American River Otter born at the Oregon Zoo in late January, took his first dip last week, but not without a lot of help from mom, Tilly. She initiated the swimming lesson by nudging Mo to the water's edge and then plunging in with a firm grip on the scruff of her pup's neck, just as otter moms do in the wild. Even though Tilly is a first-time mom, she has been doing all the right things for her pup, according to keepers.

"A lot of people don't realize it, but swimming doesn't come naturally to River Otter pups," said keeper Becca Van Beek. "They have to be taught to swim by their moms, and so far Tilly's been an amazing teacher. It might look kind of scary to a casual observer," Van Beek continued. "She'll grab Mo by the scruff of the neck and dunk him in the water. But that's a very natural behavior. Baby Otters are extremely buoyant, so Mo has built-in water wings! It's exactly what we've been hoping to see."

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.

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Photo Credit: Oregon Zoo/Shervin Hess

Upon baby-proofing the exhibit, zookeepers gave Tilly and Mo outdoor access during the mornings.  The best time for zoo visitors to catch them is between 9:30 a.m. and noon, though the Otters don't always decide to venture out.

Mo, named for the Molalla River, is the first River Otter to be born at the Oregon Zoo. He weighed around 4 ounces at birth, but has been growing fast and now is approaching 5 pounds. Adult River Otters usually weigh 11 to 30 pounds. You can read more about Little Mo, see more pictures and another video of the pup from a past post  HERE on ZooBorns.com.

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A Pile of Otter Pups at the Exmoor Zoo

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A pile of pups has arrived at the United Kingdom’s Exmoor Zoo:  a litter of seven Asian Small-clawed Otters, born in 2012, is enchanting zoo visitors with adorable antics.  The smallest of the world’s Otter species, Asian Small-clawed Otters are native to the swamps and wetlands of Southeast Asia.

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Photo Credits:  John Hammond (1,2,6,8), Exmoor Zoo (3,4,5,7,9)

Reaching a length of about three feet (90 cm) including the tail, these Otters are excellent swimmers.  Streamlined torpedo-shaped bodies, flattened heads, and short legs allow Otters to move through the water quickly.  Partially-webbed paws give these Otters the ability to manipulate the mollusks, crabs, and other aquatic animals on which they feed.

Asian Small-clawed Otters build dens in riverbanks, where they live in extended family groups.  Scent is very important for communication:  their feces, called spraint, are used as territorial markers to establish boundaries.  The Otters also construct small mounds of gravel, sand, or mud, then mark these mounds with their scent glands. 

Listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Asian Small-clawed Otters are threatened by rapid habitat loss and pollution.

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