Otter

Rescued Sea Otter Pups Get a Second Chance At Shedd Aquarium

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The Shedd Aquarium welcomed two orphaned Southern Sea Otter pups that were rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The pups, temporarily referred to as Pups 870 and 872, will remain behind the scenes for a few months as they reach important developmental milestones and build bonds with the care staff and the other Otters at Shedd before they are officially introduced to the Otter habitat.

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BRH_9583Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez 
Video credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin

The Otter pups arrived at Shedd on Monday, July 8 and have been thriving behind the scenes, receiving around the clock care from Shedd’s animal care and veterinary teams. Both Otter pups are male and only one week apart in age and born in mid-May. Pup 872 is younger and weighs 13.4 pounds. Pup 870 weighs in at 17 pounds. 

The Otters were both taken in by Monterey Bay Aquarium and deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This designation means that because the pups weren’t mother-raised and taught how to survive in the wild, they would not be successful if released into their natural habitat. Shedd offered to provide a home for the pups because Monterey Bay’s successful Sea Otter surrogacy program is currently at capacity with other pups in need.

Pup 870 was discovered stranded on May 18 near Stillwater Cove in Carmel Bay.  While the pup was clinically healthy, attempts to locate the mother were unsuccessful, and staff did not want to risk leaving the pup vulnerable and alone.

The second pup, Pup 872, was brought in two days later, on May 20. Pup 872 was found distressed and vocalizing in high winds and heavy surf at Asilomar State Beach. The pup was shivering, hypothermic and its coat was filled with sand – suggesting it was tossed in the surf. The decision was made to immediately take in the pup for stabilization and no further attempts were made to locate a mother.

Read the rest of the pups' story and see more photos below!

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A Sneak Peek at Four Otter Pups in Australia

Otter pup1 - photo credit Jennifer Conaghan

Taronga Western Plains Zoo welcomed four Oriental Small-clawed Otter pups on May 1.

The pups have been tucked away in their den since birth, but have recently started to emerge for short periods, giving zoo guests a sneak peek of their cuteness. Keepers have been monitoring the pups in the den via CCTV cameras.

Otter pup and Keeper Tarryn Williams photo credit Jennifer Conaghan
Otter pup and Keeper Tarryn Williams photo credit Jennifer ConaghanPhoto Credit: Jennifer Conaghan

The four pups are all doing well, as is first-time mother Jafar and father Harry. The pups received a clean bill of health from zoo vets at their first check-up and vaccinations. Keepers confirmed that there are three females and one male in the litter.

Father Harry arrived at Taronga Western Plains Zoo from Singapore earlier this year. Jafar and Harry bonded very quickly, and it became evident to keepers that Jafar was pregnant just a few weeks after she met Harry.

“We monitored the Otter dens closely via CCTV cameras in the lead-up to the birth as well as for the first four weeks after they were born,” said Senior Keeper Ian Anderson. “Both Jafar and Harry are proving to be great parents. It is normal for Otter parents to both help raise the young pups.”

Keepers have named the three females named Akira, Luna, and Rani, while the male has been named Anng.

The Otter pups’ growth and development is on track, and they have met all their expected milestones.

Native to wetlands in South and Southeast Asia, Oriental Small-clawed Otters are the smallest of all living Otter species. They are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to habitat loss, pollution, and human encroachment.  


Woodland Park Zoo's Otter Pups Have Names

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Woodland Park Zoo’s ‘otterly adorable’ North American River Otter pups officially have names! The two boys have been named Tucker and Nooksack, and the two girls were named Piper and Tahu.

According to Woodland Park staff, Nooksack, Piper, and Tahu were thoughtfully named by three families who are great friends of the zoo, and Tucker’s name was voted on by zoo-goers that attended the zoo’s “Bear Affair: Living Northwest Conservation Day”.

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3_unnamed (5)Photo Credits: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Swimming doesn’t come naturally to otters. Keepers report that first-time mom, Valkyrie, has been a phenomenal teacher, masterfully showing her babies the ins and outs of navigating the water in their exhibit’s pool. The pups are mastering the art of diving, and with four pups to teach at once, that’s no easy feat for mom. The babies quickly took to the water, and their initial splashing and paddling has now blossomed into graceful diving and gliding through the pool.

All four otter pups, and mom Valkyrie, are in their outdoor habitat, located at the zoo’s Northern Trail, daily between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. If they’re not visible, they’re most likely napping — all that swimming can really wear a pup out!

The four pups were born in March and are all still nursing with their mom. Their current weights are between 4 and 6 pounds each. The pups are the first offspring for mom, Valkyrie, and dad, Ziggy (both 5 years old). It’s also the first-ever documented River Otter birth in Woodland Park Zoo’s 119-year history!

North American River Otters (Lontra Canadensis) are semi-aquatic members of the weasel family. Their habitat ranges over most of North America in coastal areas, estuaries, freshwater lakes, streams and rivers; they can be found in water systems all over Washington State. River Otters consume a wide variety of prey such as fish, crayfish, amphibians and birds. At the top of the food chain, River Otters are an excellent reflection of the health of local ecosystems.

All otter species are considered threatened, while five of the 13 species are endangered due to water pollution, overfishing of commercial stock, and habitat destruction.

To help Woodland Park Zoo contribute information to sustainable breeding, husbandry and public awareness of the River Otter, patrons can adopt the species through the zoo’s ZooParent program. For more information, see the zoo’s website: https://www.zoo.org/


River Otter Quad Reaches New Milestone

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Woodland Park Zoo’s quadruplet River Otter pups reached a milestone last week…the six-week-olds opened their eyes!

The North American River Otter pups (two females and two males) were born to mom, Valkyrie, and dad, Ziggy. They are the first offspring for their five-year-old parents, and, as far back as the zoo’s animal records go, they are the first River Otter births documented in the zoo’s 119-year history.

“River Otters typically open their eyes between 28 and 35 days, so they’re right on schedule,” said Deanna DeBo, an animal manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “Mom continues to provide excellent care for her pups, and we’re seeing appropriate weight gains. As they get stronger, they’ll soon be walking. Right now they’re using their bellies to move about.”

Valkyrie and her pups continue to live off view in a private den, so the new family can nurse and bond. Animal care staff weighs the pups once a week to ensure continued weight gains and, as part of the zoo’s neonatal program, animal health staff will perform wellness exams every several weeks. The pups currently weigh between two and three pounds apiece.

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4_57592802_10157502614522708_2044411777290076160_oPhoto Credits: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

The ability to swim is something that otter pups do not possess when they’re born. “Otters are such graceful, agile swimmers but it doesn’t come naturally to them. They’re born helpless and blind, so pups need swimming lessons by their mom,” explained DeBo. “It’s dunkin’ otter time as the mom grabs the pups by the scruff of their necks and dunks them in and out of the water. It may look scary but the moms know what they’re doing and otter pups are very buoyant,” explained DeBo.

Once the pups demonstrate they can swim, Valkyrie and her pups will be given access to the public outdoor habitat, where the pups can learn to swim safely in the deep pool and navigate the terrain.

The father, Ziggy, is currently separated and can be seen in the Northern Trail habitat with the zoo’s other river otter, a 21-year-old male named Duncan.

Valkyrie and Ziggy were introduced to each other in 2015 under a breeding recommendation through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Otter Species Survival Plan, a conservation breeding program across accredited zoos and aquariums to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population of otters.

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First Recorded River Otter Birth in Zoo’s History

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Woodland Park Zoo is excited to announce that a North American River Otter gave birth to four pups on March 16. The pups are the first offspring for mom, Valkyrie, and dad, Ziggy (both 5-years-old).

As far back as the Zoo’s animal records go, the pups are the first River Otter birth documented in the Zoo’s 119-year history!

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4_56293785_10157445195932708_5706713897914859520_nPhoto Credits: Woodland Park Zoo/ Images 9 (mom, Valkyrie) & 10 (dad, Ziggy): Dennis Dow

Woodland Park’s animal health team was able to do a wellness check on the pups and confirmed there are two females and two males. The pups weigh between 10 and 12 ounces each.

The gestation period for River Otters is 68 to 72 days. Pups are born blind and completely helpless, relying solely on mom for care during their first year. They open their eyes at about a month old.

Over the next several weeks, Valkyrie and her pups will remain in an off-view, climate-controlled den where the new family can nurse and bond in a quiet environment.

Animal care staff are closely monitoring the new family via a den cam. “The first year is crucial for otter pups. Because Valkyrie is a first-time mother, we want to be sure she’s providing appropriate care for each pup,” said Deanna DeBo, an animal care manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “We’re happy to report each pup has a fully belly, a good sign they’re nursing. She’s being a good mom and providing attentive maternal care.”

The father, Ziggy, is currently separated and can be seen in the Northern Trail exhibit with the Zoo’s other River Otter, a 21-year-old male named Duncan.

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Christmas Came Early for Jacksonville Zoo

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Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating a special Christmas present, which came early, with the birth of an Asian Small-clawed Otter pup. The birth is a first for the Zoo, which debuted the species with the opening of the ‘Land of the Tiger’ in 2014.

The tiny new pup was born to first-time parents, Carlisle and Harley, on November 14. The pup was only 3-ounces when born, but it is now a fluffy 18 ounces. A very dear friend and Zoo patron chose to name the little otter “Scotter”.

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4_Harley and CarlislePhoto Credits: Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (Image 4: Proud otter parents, Carlisle and Harley)

Asian Small-clawed Otters are the smallest of the 13 otter species. They are slow developers and the little one is just now starting to open its eyes. In fact, they are so slow to develop, staff has yet to determine the pup’s gender.

Asian Small-clawed Otters are also very social animals, with both parents sharing responsibilities raising the pup. Carlisle and Harley have been busy with grooming and nest building for the healthy little one in their behind-the-scenes otter house.

Next up for the increasingly mobile pup will be swimming lessons. The proud parents will introduce the little one to a small tub of shallow water in the night house. Unlike most other otter species, Asian Small-clawed Otters spend much more time on the land but are still agile swimmers.

It will be several weeks before the pup is able to explore the large exhibit that is shared with two Babirusa Pigs, Jeffrey and Ramona. Until then, the Zoo will share milestones like swimming lessons on their social media channels.

Asian Small-clawed Otters (Aonyx cinerea) are native to Southeast Asia where they are classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN. The species is threatened by habitat loss due to palm oil production.

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Five Otter Pups Get First Check-Up at Chester Zoo

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Five baby Asian Short-clawed Otters were recently given their first ever health check-ups at Chester Zoo.

The quintet of tiny pups, born February 22, are reported to be in ‘tip-top condition.’ They were checked over by Chester Zoo’s keepers and vets who determined their sexes (four girls and a boy), weighed them, listened to their heartbeats and gave them all a physical examination.

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4_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (1)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

The adorable litter of Otter pups was born to three-year-old mum, Annie, and five-year-old dad, Wallace.

Keeper Hannah Sievewright said, “Each of the five pups showed themselves to be feisty little characters! We’re thrilled though that every one of them is in tip-top condition and they’re all doing ever so well.”

“We can’t wait to see them start to take to the water as they continue to grow, become more and more confident and gain independence from mum and dad.”

Asian Short-clawed Otters have the amazing ability to close their nostrils and ears underwater to stop water entering. They also have highly sensitive whiskers to help them find prey underwater, and they have partially webbed feet for powerful movement in water and land.

The species can eat up to a quarter of their body weight every day and have large upper back teeth for crushing hard shelled prey like crabs. They have sensitive paws to feel-out and catch fish, frogs, and mollusks on riverbeds. Their thick, waterproof fur protects them against cold water. Their under fur has around 70,000 hairs per cm2.

Asian Short-clawed Otters are classified by the IUCN as “Vulnerable” to extinction and face increasing threats to their survival in the wild. Many areas of wetland where they are found are being taken over by human populations and some are also hunted for their skins and organs, which are used in traditional Chinese medicines.

In the UK, Chester Zoo has helped fund research and conservation projects in Cheshire, which are monitoring and safeguarding threatened native Otter populations – distant relatives of the Asian Short-clawed species.

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6_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (14)


Adorable Asian Small-clawed Otter Duo Born

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Two adorable Asian Small-clawed Otter pups were born the middle of March at the Kansas City Zoo.

For now, the fluffy male and female pups will remain behind-the-scenes with their parents and big brother, Otis.

However, the Zoo is happy to share updates of the duo via social media. Keepers also organized a naming contest, allowing the public to select the tiny otters new names. And the winning names are…Conner and Clover.

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Kczoo-female-pupPhoto Credits: Kansas City Zoo

Although the Asian Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinerea syn. Amblonyx cinereus) is only listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN, the species is seriously threatened by rapid habitat destruction for palm oil farming and by hunting and pollution. They are considered an “indicator species,” meaning their population indicates the general health of their habitat and of other species.

The species is the smallest Otter in the world and lives in freshwater wetlands and mangrove swamps throughout Southeast Asia, including southern India and China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Borneo, and the Malay Peninsula. They prefer quiet pools and sluggish streams for fishing and swimming.

Unlike Sea Otters, they spend more time on land than in water, but they are skillful, agile swimmers and divers, with great endurance. They can stay submerged for six to eight minutes.

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Blissful Winter Baby Boom at Columbus Zoo

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The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium recently announced the arrival of seven babies, representing three at-risk species, born in late January and early February. The new additions are: five Asian Small-clawed Otter pups, a Silvered Leaf Langur baby, and a Humboldt Penguin chick.

According to the Zoo, each new little one contributes to maximizing genetic diversity within their species and sustaining populations of those facing serious threats to their future in their native ranges.

The baby boom began with the arrival of the five Asian Small-clawed Otter pups, born during the early morning hours of January 26.

Native to coastal regions from southern India to Southeast Asia, Asian Small-clawed Otters (Aonyx cinereus) are often threatened by habitat destruction, pollution and hunting. These factors place them at risk in their native range, and they are currently classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN.

The pups (three males and two females) were born to first-time parents, Gus and Peanut. Peanut was born in 2014 and arrived at the Columbus Zoo in April 2017 from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Father, Gus, was born in 2008 and arrived at the Columbus Zoo from the Bronx Zoo in 2014.

According to staff, the young pups are thriving under the watchful eyes of both of their parents and are expected to be on view to the public later this spring.

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4_Asia Small Clawed Otter Pups 2271 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and AquariumPhoto Credits: Grahm S. Jones/ Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The Columbus Zoo was also proud to welcome a female Silvered Leaf Langur baby on February 16. The female was born to mother, Patty, and father, Thai. Patty made her way to the Columbus Zoo from the Bronx Zoo in 2007 and has given birth to seven offspring. Thai arrived at the Columbus Zoo in 2015 from the San Diego Zoo and has fathered a total of four infants.

Patty, Thai, and the newest Langur arrival are currently on view in the Zoo’s Asia Quest region. Staff reports that the baby is easy to spot as Langurs are born bright orange, as opposed to their adult counterparts with black fur and silvered tips. This difference in coat color is believed to encourage other female Langurs to assist in raising the young, a practice called “allomothering”.

In their native ranges, Silvered Leaf Langurs (Trachypithecus cristatus) can be found in areas including Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. The species’ populations in these countries are decreasing due to habitat loss as lands are cleared for oil palm plantations or destroyed by forest fires. Langurs are also hunted for their meat or taken for the pet trade.

The Columbus Zoo’s pairing of Patty and Thai was based on an SSP recommendation, and the birth of the new baby will play an important role in helping manage this at-risk species. Silvered Leaf Langurs are listed as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN, due to population declines caused by habitat loss. The arrival of this Langur baby at the Columbus Zoo is an important part of sustaining the population among AZA-accredited zoos, certified related facilities and conservation partners.

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Otter Family Welcomes Pups at Potter Park Zoo

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Potter Park Zoo is overjoyed to announce the February 6th birth of two North American River Otters to mother, Nkeke, and father, Miles.

Although it is still very early in their life, keepers report that the babies seem strong and are nursing on a regular basis. To keep mother and pups comfortable, the Zoo’s staff monitors the new family through a camera in the nest box.

“The Zoo staff’s excitement of their birth has to be tempered with the realization that it’s still very early in the life of the Otter pups. While Nkeke seems to be doing an excellent job as a mother, she is a first-time mom and is learning as she goes. For most wild mammal babies, the critical period is usually the first month or so of life. This is where ‘failure to thrive’ is most likely to occur. Careful monitoring of Nkeke and the pups will continue for quite some time,” said Sarah Pechtel, Potter Park Zoo General Curator.

Nkeke arrived at Potter Park Zoo in the fall of 2016 from Roger Williams Zoo in Rhode Island, and breeding was first observed between she and Miles the following February. The North American River Otter Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommended the pairs introduction and breeding. This SSP, one of many in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), is responsible for developing an annual breeding and transfer plan for the species. This plan identifies population management goals and makes recommendations that help ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied population.

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4_New Otter Mom NkekePhoto Credits: Potter Park Zoo (Image 4 = New mom, Nkeke / Image 5 = New dad, Miles)

The birth of the pups marks a milestone for Potter Park Zoo staff, being the second successful River Otter litter in the Zoo’s history. Miles, the father of the new pups, was the first Otter pup born at Potter Park Zoo in 2013.

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