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New otter is in great shape

Posted by: Caileigh Robertson, Communications

Nearly two weeks ago, a male Asian small-clawed otter arrived at the zoo. Albeit a little early, this little fella is here in anticipation of the first phase of the zoo’s new Asian tropical forest exhibit complex, which he will call home upon its opening in May. (Psst…look for more news about progress on the new exhibit coming up on the blog this Thursday.)

All newly arrived animals go through a routine quarantine examination and weigh-in by zoo veterinarian staff. Much like your yearly physical at your doctor’s office, quarantine exams help our animal management staff gather information about the animal’s overall health and well-being.

The zoo’s Director of Animal Health, Dr. Darin Collins, checks the otter’s heartbeat during the exam. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Today, our new otter received his quarantine exam and, as expected, he is in great shape!  The veterinary staff checked his weight, pulse and oxygen levels, in addition to taking routine blood samples and x-rays.

An x-ray of the otter’s lower half shows his abdomen and lower bone structure. Follow us on Instagram @woodlandparkzoo to view an image of his upper half. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The 7-year-old male and his soon-to-arrive, 3-year-old female mate will be the first of their kind to live at our zoo. The male arrived from Zoo Atlanta, and the female will be arriving from Bronx Zoo before the end of the month. For now, the male will make himself at home in a temporary, off-view exhibit until phase one of the Asian tropical forest exhibit complex opens to the public in May. 

The pulse oximeter, used for checking pulse and oxygen levels, typically grips a human’s index or ring finger. Though, the Asian small-clawed otter is so small that the finger-sized clip covers its entire paw. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Asian small-clawed otters are the smallest otter species in the world. And unlike the zoo’s river otters of the award-winning Northern Trail, small-clawed otters spend more time on land. Typically, this species of otter is known for its social, active lifestyle. 

The veterinary staff and keepers noted that our new male otter is very spunky and enjoys plenty of attention!  When all eyes aren’t on him, he likes to squeal until his keepers pay him another visit. What a ham!

Before he finished his exam, the keepers warmed his crate with a mini heater. As soon as he woke, he huddled into his toasty, cozy corner. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Habitat loss presents otters the gravest threat. In their native habitats of southern and southeastern Asia, otters face deforestation, drainage of wetlands and growth of plantations that drastically reduce their suitable habitat. Once common, Asian small-clawed otters are locally extinct in Hong Kong, Singapore and India’s Sunderbans and East Calcutta.
The new Asian tropical forest exhibit complex will use innovative, hands-on education techniques to spread awareness of these conservation issues and encourage visitors to help save the wild animals and habitats we all love.