River Otter Quad Reaches New Milestone


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.



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


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!



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

1_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (8)

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.

2_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (7)

3_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (6)

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.

5_Vets give a clean bill of health to five newborn Asian short-clawed otter pups at Chester Zoo (11)

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


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.


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

1_Asia Small Clawed Otter Pups 2614 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

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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3_Asia Small Clawed Otter Pups 2294 - Grahm S. Jones  Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

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


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.



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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A Pile of Otter Pups at NatureZoo Rheine

A furry pile of tiny baby Otters snuggled in the nest box at Germany’s NaturZoo Rheine represents the first-ever birth of Asian Small-clawed Otters at the zoo.

The pups, which were born on October 31, stay so close together that the staff is unsure how many pups are in the nest, but they expect there are four or five little ones.

Photo Credit: NaturZoo Rheine

Four adult Asian Small-clawed Otters, all about six years old, arrived at NaturZoo Rheine in the summer of 2017. The staff allowed the female to select her mate from among the three males in the group and she became pregnant shortly after.

Keepers knew that the female had given birth because they heard the pups chirping loudly from within the nest box. The female did not come out of the box for four days.  Keepers respected her privacy and allowed her to bond with her newborns. Two of the males cared for the female and her pups by bringing her food during this time. Later, when the female left the nest box for brief periods, the males guarded the nest. The males also brought fresh bedding, cleaned waste from the nest, and helped transfer the pups to a second nest box when the pups were about three weeks old.

Keepers have not disturbed the nest, but one day, when all the adults were out of the box, they peeked inside to check on the pups. At first glance, they thought there were three pups in the box, but then realized there were at least four.  Later, another keeper thought she saw five pups. The number will remain a mystery until the pups come out of the nest with their mom, probably in late December.

Asian Small-clawed Otters, which are the smallest of all Otter species, are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. They inhabit wetlands, mangrove swamps, and waterways in Southeast Asia.  Many of these areas are rapidly being converted for aquaculture production, which diminishes the quality of the habitat.  Many surrounding hillsides are being converted to tea and coffee plantations, with the pesticides used in those plantations running off into waterways where Otters live.  

Four Otter Pups Come Out of the Den at Woburn Safari Park

Otter-pup-1_715x589Four Otter pups were born at Woburn Safari Park in late September, and they’re now out of the den exploring their exhibit.

The Asian Small-clawed Otter pups are the second litter born to parents Kovu and Kelani. The first litter of five pups was born in July 2016. The one-year-olds are proving to be great helpers to Kovu and Kelani when it comes to managing the newborns.

Photo Credits: Woburn Safari Park (1,3,4,5); Linda McPherson (2)

The four new pups, one female and three males, recently received their first hands-on health check from keepers.  The pups were microchipped, sexed, and given a quick exam. All four are doing well.

Animal keeper Louise Moody said, "We are really excited that Kelani has welcomed another litter successfully and that all the pups are doing well. Their older siblings are helping out their parents and bringing food for them all into the nest box.”

The four pups and seven adult Otters can now be seen playing together in their outdoor enclosure, and the pups are learning to swim. The water level in the exhibit pool has been temporarily lowered until the little Otters grow a bit bigger.

In a few months, the family will say goodbye to the older pups.  They will be sent to other zoos to become part of Otter breeding programs.

Asian Small-clawed Otters are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. They live in coastal wetlands in South and Southeast Asia, and their habitat has been degraded and reduced significantly in recent decades.


Zoo Osnabrück’s Otter Pups Make Public Debut


Zoo Osnabrück recently released photos of four Asian Small-clawed Otter pups. The pups were born to mother, Haima, and father, Ambu, in early August, but keepers wanted to give the new family time to bond before they made a public debut.

According to veterinarians, the pups all appear healthy. Staff was able to ascertain that two of the pups are females and one is certainly male, however, the smallest and quickest of the litter has yet to allow staff that close-up of an exam. Zoo Veterinarian, Thomas Scheibe, smiled and said, "A small, agile otter is really difficult to catch. One of the four cubs hid completely, so we could only catch and examine three of the cubs. But…we'll catch up soon!”



4_23215718_1912625722097697_2821923821153530414_oPhoto Credits: Zoo Osnabrück

As part of their routine vet examinations and care, the Asian Small-clawed Otters at Zoo Osnabrück are regularly vaccinated against distemper, a viral disease that often occurs in dogs or some wild animals. "Because the Zoo is not an isolated area, we vaccinate the animals that are susceptible to distemper," explains the wildlife veterinarian.

During the time of the recent exam, each of the pups weighed about 500 grams.

In addition to the vaccination, the otter pups received a microchip, which is also used in pets or horses. "The chip is used for the animals, so that they are individually recognizable. Within one to two years, the young animals will leave us for another zoo, "explained Tobias Klumpe, research associate responsible for the Zoo’s animal transfers.

Visitors can watch the busy family life of the Asian Small-clawed Otters in Zoo Osnabrück’s outdoor area of ​the Tetra Aquarium. Until about the end of November, the small predators will use the outdoor area before they are moved into their winter quarters inside the Tetra Aquarium, where they will also be on-exhibit.

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