Posted on 23rd May 2022 by Media Relations
World Otter Day 2022 – By Keeper Madalyn Higgins
World Otter Day is on Wednesday 25 May. The day was created to help bring awareness to all 13 otter species around the world. Otters are what’s known as a keystone species, which means if they were to disappear from their habitat then that environment would become unbalanced and can lead to whole ecosystems crashing.
Here at Taronga Western Plains Zoo we have Asian Small-clawed Otters which are the smallest of the 13 otter species. Small-clawed Otters are best known for their dexterity which is basically a fancy word for them using their hands. The incomplete webbing between their fingers gives them a great range of motion and they hunt for food using their hands rather than their mouths like other species.
Otters in the wild live in family groups that consist of a breeding pair (mum and dad) and their offspring. We have four animals in our otter group currently. Mum Jafar, who is 7 years old, was born here at the Zoo in 2015, Dad Harry (8 years old) came to us in 2019 from a zoo in Singapore and their two male offspring Aang, the oldest (born in 2019) and Tai, the baby of the group at 2 years of age.
Each of the otters have very different personalities and roles within their family group. Jafar (Mum) is very much in charge of everyone. She is often the one leading the others anytime there is something new or different happening. Harry (Dad) is a very food motivated character and is always the first one over for any feeds. His favourite food is kibble that the family receives daily. Aang is very curious and loves to investigate any new enrichment items. Tai as the youngest is very much the most playful, he loves to play with different enrichment objects and the other members of his family. You will often see him and Aang play fighting somewhere in their zoo home.
As an otter keeper I am always engaged and busy. As otters are an active species, looking after them has its own unique challenges as they are always up to something cheeky. As otters have a high metabolism they are fed several times a day. Along with multiple feeds, we also like to give them lots of different enrichment activities to help keep them occupied. Our group at the moment loves substrate enrichment so things like leaf litter piles where they can dig through, sand castles or dirt piles that have different scents and nesting material to help keep them nice and warm.