KURE BEACH — On May 21, three otter pups were born at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher and staff is looking for input on naming them.
The Asian small-clawed otters were born to parents Leia and Quincy during a full moon, King Tide and a storm. The species is native to Indonesia, southern China, southern India, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines.
“The team at the Aquarium researched and shared meaningful naming ideas based on the native habitat of Asian small-clawed otters and the unique circumstances of when they were born,” otter keeper Shannon Anderson said in a press release.
The public will vote on one of four groups featuring various names for the three pups:
- Stella, Mae and Selene (moon, Thailand moon goddess and goddess of the moon)
- Padma, Bulan and Melati (Indonesia’s three national flowers—the Giant Padma, Anggrek bulan, the moth orchid; and Melati putih, the Arabian Jasmine)
- Tala, Reyna and Ula (bright star, queen and small one)
- Java, Bali and Nusa (Volcanic islands in Indonesia)
Individuals can vote online, and by scanning QR codes located on the screens at the aquarium and located at the aquarium’s Otters Edge habitat. Voting is open to the community through noon on Aug. 26.
N.C. Aquarium otters Leia, 3, and Quincy, 8, had their first offspring in May. Now three months old, the female pups are beginning to reveal their personalities, according to aquarium staff.
The smallest one is “vocal and playful” and was the first to start exploring, the staff wrote on a blog about the otters’ growth.
The largest one is “sassy and snorts at mom” and “has a grumpy look on her face.”
The third is “shy and timid.”
The otter pups opened their eyes, which typically occurs between 17 and 47 days, on June 30 and began “chirping.”
Preparations are underway to introduce the pups into the public habitat, once they are eating solid foods and have become proficient swimmers. The pups are currently housed behind the scenes and under veterinary care to monitor growth and development.
As of July 28, they were learning how to eat, nibbling on peeled shrimp and smelt. By Aug. 4 they were investigating their surroundings, playing in shallow water, and learning to close their ears and hold their breath underwater.
Otters love to swim and can stay submerged up to five minutes, but they are not born with the natural ability. They must first adapt to sealing their nose and ear canals underwater.
The pups’ mom is one of 16 breeding female otters in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan in the U.S. The SSP programs manage the breeding of a select species and are designed to maintain a “healthy, genetically diverse and demographically stable population.”
The Asian small-clawed otters 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 threats including residential and commercial development, deforestation, the illegal pet trade, pollution, climate change, and poaching, according to the release.
“Our hope is that by discovering more about Asian small-clawed otters, our community will both celebrate how special they are and take individual actions to prioritize their conservation,” Anderson said in the release.
To assist with conservation of the species, the aquarium staff recommends the public pursue some of the following actions:
- Buy shade-grown coffee — it’s produced on farms with a shade cover that provides important habitat for different species, preventing deforestation and destruction of homes for animals like Asian small-clawed otters.
- Don’t support illegally traded wild animals as pets.
- Think before buying furs.
- Support Aquarium conservation priorities by visiting North Carolina Aquarium Society.
Tickets to the aquarium at 900 Loggerhead Rd. in Kure Beach must be purchased in advance online.
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