The Santa Barbara Zoo has welcomed a litter of Asian small-clawed otters, but you’ll have to wait until at least the end of the year to see them in person.
The three pups born Oct. 7 are the first litter for recently paired otter couple Gail and Peeta (named for characters in “The Hunger Games” book series). Its also the first litter of the species born at the zoo in six years.
“The parents didn’t come out to greet us and then we heard squeaks,” Michele Green, curator of mammals, said of how keepers discovered the new litter. “That’s how we knew Gail had given birth.”
According to the zoo, after the birth, female otters stay in the nesting box with the pups, but are relieved by the male for breaks. Both of the zoo’s otters are first-time parents but are showing “excellent parenting skills for the pups (two females and one male),” according to keepers.
Gail only arrived in March and it’s been fun to watch them bond, and now become parents.
Michele Green, Santa Barbara Zoo Curator of Mammals
“Gail only arrived in March, and it’s been fun to watch them bond, and now become parents,” Green said. “She’s a young mom, but doing very well. Peeta is attentive and diligent.”
Asian small-clawed otters are not endangered, but they are threatened by rapid habitat destruction for palm oil farming and by hunting and pollution, according to the zoo. The species, the smallest otter in the world, lives in freshwater wetlands and mangrove swamps throughout Southeast Asia including southern India and China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Borneo and the Malay Peninsula.
It’ll be a little while before you can see the otters in person, however: The pups won’t leave the holding area until they are old enough to safely swim and have grown teeth to eat solid food.
Green estimated that the family group may venture into their exhibit in December for swimming lessons in the small pool. By January, the pups should be proficient swimmers, and on view at varying times during the day.
The public can help the otter pups by becoming a Foster Feeder, which supports the cost of feeding the growing otter family, according to the zoo. For more information, visit www.sbzoo.org.