Three Asian small-clawed otter pups—all females, born Saturday, May 21, are growing and bonding with their parents Leia and Quincy behind the scenes at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (NCAFF). This overwhelming amount of adorable represents success in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan®(SSP) Program. Leia is among 16 breeding female otters in the AZA SSP Program in the United States.
NCAFF aquarists Shannon Anderson and Vickie Burgfeld spent all day with the otter couple once there were signs that a birth was imminent. They both kept a watchful eye for indications of a successful delivery.
“Because pregnancies in this otter species can be difficult to detect and stillbirths are not uncommon, we were thrilled when we began seeing Leia and Quincy gingerly moving the newborn pups from one den to another and were able to count a total of three,” said Anderson.
Leia, age 3, and Quincy, age 8, are both first-time parents and from their behavior so far, they are very attentive to their offspring.
“Visitors to the Aquarium are very familiar with our two otter families. They are the first habitat guests experience when they enter our conservatory, so it is wonderful to share the story of these pups with the public,” said Hap Fatzinger, director, NCAFF.
Guests will have an opportunity to experience the pups in their habitat Otters on the Edge once they are eating solid foods and become proficient swimmers.
“We continue to monitor the pups’ growth and development, as well as ensure their parents have the calm and support they need to successfully raise them. All three pups are gaining weight, and Leia appears to be providing them with all the nutrition they need, which is especially encouraging and exciting as she is a first-time mom. We know our community is as excited as we are to see these cute little pups in person; however, to ensure they remain safe and healthy, the family will be staying behind the scenes until the pups are more developed and mobile, and Leia and Quincy are ready to venture beyond the nest,” said Dr. Emily Christiansen, chief veterinarian, North Carolina Aquariums.
Asian small-clawed otters are native to Indonesia, southern China, southern India, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines. They are the smallest of the otter species and listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Population numbers are declining because of several threats, including residential and commercial development, deforestation, the illegal pet trade, pollution, climate change, and poaching.
Read more about the new pups at the NCAFF by visiting Otter Pups Journey. The NCAFF otter story is at Otters on the Edge. Our community can track their growth and playfulness on the NCAFF social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.