WILMINGTON — The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher celebrated another arrival of otter pups to join mom and dad Leia and Quincy, and siblings Stella, Mae and Selene born last May.
Three more Asian small-clawed otter pups were born Tuesday, Jan. 31.
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The aquarium revealed in a press release the pups are bonding with the family. In coming weeks, aquarium staff monitor but remain “hands-off” to allow for proper parenting to naturally occur among the new family.
It is Leia’s second successful pregnancy and delivery in less than a year. The otter team first noticed a single otter born while Leia was in labor Tuesday.
The gestation period for otters is 68 to 72 days, though false pregnancies are also common.
“It is not unusual for some species to be unsuccessful raising the first few litters, and they need the opportunity to develop parental skills,” staff noted in the release. “These pups may be fragile and their outcome will become clear as they grow older.”
So far, the litter’s siblings have been giving them space, keeping distance and remaining submissive to mom when she exits the nest.
Aquarium staff will carefully watch the pups’ progression, which includes using their legs, opening their eyes and moving around the den at two-and-a-half weeks old. At six weeks they journey out of the den solo, while at seven weeks they will begin to eat solid foods. Swim lessons — in 4 inches of water — begin at eight weeks with their coats developing waterproofing oils, allowing them to swim in the pool at 17-and-a-half weeks.
Once they pass these milestones, they’ll be on view to the public.
The new pups’ genders will be revealed Saturday, Feb. 4, on the aquarium’s social media.
Leia, a 4-year-old mom, is one of 13 breeding female otters in the United States’s Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan Program.
The AZA SSP program helps support new pups’ survival, as they’re a vulnerable species. Asian small-clawed otters are native to Indonesia, southern China, southern India, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines.
“We are keeping a close eye on the family since now there are siblings in the mix and just like with Stella, Mae, and Selene, it is important that the family have a safe and quiet place to bond with their newest members,” Shannon Anderson, aquarist and otter keeper, said.
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