A tiny otter pup has begun to venture outside its nest at Taronga Zoo after being delivered in a lifesaving caesarean birth.
Veterinarians were called in to save the Oriental Small-clawed Otter pup on 28 February after mother Pia was unable to give birth naturally.
“Pia was having difficulties during labour, so we had to intervene and undertake an emergency caesarean,” said Taronga Veterinarian, Frances Hulst.
Pia was found to be carrying three pups, but sadly all of the pups were unresponsive when they were delivered.
“Unfortunately two pups didn’t survive, but we were able to successfully resuscitate the third pup and it was suckling from mum within hours of the birth,” said Frances.
After the spending its first 10 weeks developing in its nestbox, the male pup has just begun to explore outdoors under the close watch of Pia and father Ketut.
“They’ve been perfect parents. They’re both extremely attentive and occasionally even battle over who gets to look after the pup,” said Keeper, Ben Haynes.
“Ketut is a first-time dad, but he grew up with younger siblings so he has experience collecting fish and caring for younger otters.”
Ketut arrived at Taronga from Perth Zoo in 2015 and his successful paring with Pia is seen as an encouraging sign for the regional breeding program for Oriental Small-clawed Otters. The pup is the first successful otter birth at Taronga in more than 15 years.
The pup has been named ‘Intan’, meaning ‘diamond’ in Indonesian. Weighing about 500 grams, he has begun tasting solid food and learning to swim alongside his parents.
“He’s very curious, but still very much reliant on mum and dad for everything. They’ve started encouraging him into the water, swimming alongside him and teaching him to dive underwater,” said Ben.
The smallest of the 13 otter species, weighing less than 5 kilograms, Oriental Small-clawed Otters are found in the streams, rivers, marshes and wetlands of southern India, southern China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Classed as a vulnerable species, populations continue to be threatened by habitat loss, water pollution and poaching for the fur trade.