A quintet of baby otters born in February has been given its first ever health check-up at Chester Zoo, with the tiny pups said to be in ‘tip-top condition’ after being checked over by keepers and vets.
The otter pups had their sexes determined (four girls and one boy), and were weighed. They had their heart beats listened to and also received a physical examination before being given a clean bill of health.
The Asian short-clawed otters – the world’s smallest species of otter – were born 10 weeks ago to mum Annie and 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 are listed by conservationists 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.
Chester Zoo has helped fund research and conservation projects here in Cheshire which are monitoring and safeguarding threatened native otter populations – distant relatives of the Asian short-clawed species.
Otter pups fast facts…
- Asian short-clawed otters are able to close their nostrils and ears underwater to stop water getting in
- They have highly sensitive whiskers to help them find prey underwater
- They 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
- The otters have partially webbed feet for powerful movement in water and on land
- They have sensitive paws to feel out and catch fish, frogs and molluscs on the river bed
- Their thick, waterproof fur protects them against cold water – their underfur has around 70,000 hairs per square cm