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.

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

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A Pile of Otter Pups at the Exmoor Zoo


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.



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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Alaska SeaLife Center Rehabs Baby Otter For New Home at Vancouver Aquarium

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This orphaned female Sea Otter pup was rescued off the side of a road by Alaska SeaLife Center volunteers on October 19, 2012, after efforts to locate her mother were unsuccessful and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the intervention.The pup was immediately transferred to its I.Sea.U. critical care unit in Seward, Alaska for emergency treatment. She was estimated to be approximately eight weeks old when found, and was deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to the maternal care required by young otters.

She has just been transferred from the Alaska SeaLife Center to its new permanent home at the Vancouver Aquarium, which will allow the pup to receive the ongoing care and companionship she needs. Described as playful, and sometimes mischievous, she has adjusted well and soon will be introduced to Tanu and Elfin -- two Sea Otters who were also found stranded as pups and rescued by the Alaska SeaLife Center in years past.


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Photo Credit: Alaska SeaLife Center

Local students from the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Ocean Sciences Club provided three possible Alaskan names for the baby Otter: Susitna, Katmaiand Glacier. The final choice will be made through a voting contest held by the Vancouver Aquarium. 

Learn more of this story of teamwork below the fold:

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A Watery Romp with Asian Small-Clawed Otter Pups

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Zoo Heidelberg's young Asian Small-Clawed Otters are all play! Born last November, the two pups are healthy but not quite hardy enough to stay outside in the cold. After swimming, running and jumping, they snuggle up in their warm indoor enclosure. 

The newborns each weighed a miniscule 1.8 ounces (50 grams) at birth. Completely dependent on parental care, Asian Small-Clawed otter pups are born naked and are blind until they open their eyes at six weeks old. At seven weeks, they begin to play and explore. The young otters reach maturity at two years, but may stay with their parents to help raise the next litter. Breeding pairs form strong bonds and mate for life. 


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Photo Credits: Zoo Heidelberg

Asian Small-Clawed Otters are the smallest of otters. They have a wide range, from southern India through the Philippines and southern China. Mostly a freshwater species, they spend more time on land than other otters do. Their feet have two unusual traits: their short claws do not extend past the pads of their feet, and they do not have webbing between their toes. These adaptations help them to forage underwater for snails, crabs and other invertebrates along the bottom. Small-Clawed Otters are often welcome in rice paddies because eat crop pests like crabs. 

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Just Say ‘Mo’: Oregon Zoo’s Baby River Otter Gets A Name


After several weeks of consideration, keepers at the Oregon Zoo have settled on a name for the new baby River Otter. The pup will be called Molalla, or Mo for short, named after the Oregon river.

“A lot of North American zoo animals get their names from nations or cultures associated with their native habitats,” said Julie Christie, senior keeper for the zoo’s North America area. “For the River Otters, we like to choose names based on local waterways.”


Photo credits: Michael Durham / Oregon Zoo 

Mo’s mother, Tilly — named after the Tillamook River — gave birth to the pup Jan. 28. The first River Otter to be born at the Oregon Zoo, Mo weighed just over 4 ounces at birth but has been enjoying mom’s naturally high-fat milk and growing fast. He now weighs more than 2 and 1/2 pounds.

Tilly and her baby have occupied a private, off-exhibit maternity den since the birth, but keepers say zoo visitors have shown a lot of interest in the new arrival even though they can’t see him yet.

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“A lot of people wrote in to offer congratulations and make suggestions for his name,” Christie said. “Several people liked the name Willy, short for Willamette. And one visitor suggested naming him Pudding, after a tributary of the Molalla. We thought that was pretty cute.”

River Otters are very dependent on their mothers when they’re born. It’s usually three to five weeks before young otters open their eyes, and about five weeks before they first walk. Surprisingly, swimming does not come naturally to otters — pups must be taught to swim by their mom.

Christie said Tilly is continuing to do all the right things as a new mom, and the animal-care staff has been as hands-off as possible; they have only quickly examined Mo when Tilly is taking a short break from mom duty.

“We give her access to the exhibit during the day,” Christie said. “But Tilly’s been very attentive and doesn’t spend too long away from Mo. We’re pretty sure the pup’s a male, but we can’t be positive until our vets conduct a more thorough exam. Either way, we think Molalla will be a good name. There are plenty of females named Mo too.”

Keepers are working to “baby proof” the Cascade Stream and Pond section of the zoo’s Great Northwest exhibit and make sure it’s safe for the young otter. If all goes well, zoo visitors will be able to see Tilly and Mo there in a few weeks. Until then, otter fans are encouraged to follow the zoo on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

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

Tilly was found orphaned near Johnson Creek 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 in a transfer facilitated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which oversees the species’ protection.

The pup’s father, B.C., was found orphaned near Star City, Ark., also in 2009. He was initially taken in by the Little Rock Zoo, but transferred here the following year as a companion for Tilly. The two otters hit it off quickly and have been playful visitor favorites ever since. (B.C. arrived at the Oregon Zoo with the name Buttercup; when he was little, keepers thought he was female.)

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.

Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California Condors, Oregon Silverspot and Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies, Western Pond Turtles and Oregon Spotted Frogs. Other projects include studies on Asian Elephants, Polar Bears, Orangutans and Giant Pandas. Celebrating 125 years of community support, the zoo relies in part on donations through the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs.

Haku the White River Otter Takes a Stroll

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The Sunshine City Aquarium, located at the top of a high rise building in the heart of Tokyo, has a very special resident in Haku, a four month old female River Otter. Weighing about 3 pounds (1.36 kg), little Haku, whose name means white, greets visitors for a portion of the day from her backpack-like pouch or while on a leash with a little harness. If that weren't unique enough, Haku is unusual in that her fur has stayed so light. By this time in their growth, a River Otter's fur would have already turned black.

It's not hard to see why Haku, with her little face and whiskers, natural curiosity and bursts of energy, charms all who see her. Since she is still too young to join the seven other otters on exhibit at the Aquarium, she serves as a great ambassador for her species as she walks around for visitors to see up close.

A Japanese blogger who recently visited Haku in person captured her in these pictures, and you can watch her in action in a video below!

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Photo Credit:Blogger Beginner ++

Watch as Haku takes a stroll with her keeper around the Aquarium to visit her neighbors.

Three's Company When It Comes to Otter Pups


On January 13, deep within the dens of the U.K.'s Durrell Wildlife Park Asian Small-clawed Otter enclosure, female otter Bintang gave birth to not one, not two but three babies! Small-clawed Otters are the smallest species of otter in the world, and when the babies were checked and weighed just days ago, they weighed a tiny three-quarters pound (335g) each!




Baby Giant Otter Swimming Lessons!


Two baby Giant Otters - the first to ever be born at Chester Zoo - have been given their first swimming lessons. The pups were taken for a dip in the pool by mum Icana and dad Xingu as the duo made their first public appearance, after being born in mid-September. Having been looked after in their dens by the parents for the last seven weeks, each of the youngsters is now being individually taught how to swim now that mum and dad are confident that they are ready.

Chester Zoo's Curator of Mammals, Tim Rowlands, said: “It might surprise some to learn that a species so well adapted to living around water actually needs to be taught how to swim at first, but that’s exactly what happens and it’s a really family effort. Dad Xingu has been taking them by the scruffs of their necks and throwing them in at the deep end. And after each has had a little splash mum Icana then dives in and drags them back out. They are such a charming and charismatic species and it really is fascinating to see these swimming lessons taking place.”


Giant Otters Learn to Swim
Photo and video credit: Chester Zoo


While they might be small now, the pups will grow up to be truly giant at a length of 6ft and a weight of around 75 lbs (34kgs).Their arrival has been cause for great celebration at the zoo as it is the first time the species has successfully bred there. This landmark event has occurred only six months after the otters were given access to new state-of-the-art breeding facilities and dens at the zoo – including the UKs first underwater viewing zone for the species.

Tim added: “They’re an endangered species that have rarely bred in zoos before and so we’re very, very pleased indeed. Achieving our first ever successful breeding is a real landmark for us and now, with the excellent new facilities and real skilled keeping staff we’ve got at our disposal, we hope we can play a pivotal role in the future conservation of the species.”

In the wild Giant Otters are found in remote areas within some freshwater lakes, rivers, creeks, and reservoirs of tropical South America, where it is estimated that as few as just 1,000 may remain. Their numbers have been drastically reduced due to fur hunting and habitat destruction.

You Otter See These Pups!


Edinburgh Zoo's Oriental Small-clawed Otters welcomed five new borns to the raft in July this year - and now the 10 week old pups have started venturing out and about in their enclosure. The quintuplets were born to mum Elena and dad Ray - their third litter since arriving at the Zoo, making them experts when it comes to rearing pups. The youngsters have only recently started to explore their new surroundings under the watchful eyes of their older sisters, Eliza and Aisha, and of course their protective parents. Keepers have sexed the 10 week olds as three females and two males, who have yet to be named.



Photo credit: Edinburgh Zoo

Lorna Hughes, hoof stock keeper at Edinburgh Zoo, said: "Asian Short-clawed Otters are the smallest Otter species in the world and the pups are around 10 weeks old now, so they still have a fair bit of growing to do. This species is under threat in the wild, so it really is brilliant news that Elena and Ray have had another litter together.  Their offspring will go on to play an important part in the conservation program."

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