There has been a changing of the guard in Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Otter group. In November 2010, the Zoo welcomed a new female Otter ‘Emiko’ from Higashiyama Zoo, Nagoya, Japan. Emiko had to spend 30 days in quarantine at Zoo’s Veterniary and Quarantine Centre before being able to meet her new mate. Before this could take place our resident female 'Rose' moved to her new home at Australia Zoo in Queensland.
Otters are very social animals and don’t like to be alone. Emiko and Harley were introduced following the quarantine period with the introduction going off without a hitch and the two paired up well. Pair bonding will take time but the indications are good, being able to put the two animals together in the quarantine facility was an advantage for us as the two had a couple of weeks to get to know each other before being moved to the exhibit.
Harley and Emiko are now on exhibit and are settling in well. The past two months have presented Emiko with lots of new experiences and she is adjusting well. Emiko is still finding her feet and is a little timid, but each day has seen Emiko become a little more confident and she is now bold enough to venture out into the exhibit at feed times.
It’s been a wonderful experience for staff to see Emiko learning and exploring her new surroundings. One of the best things keepers witnessed was Emiko trying to dispatch a live yabby; she was having trouble with the very large claws and struggling to subdue it, with a little coaching from Harley and some perseverance Emiko learnt how to disable the claws. Emiko has improved her technique and can now deal with the biggest yabbies with little effort.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo has held Oriental Small Clawed Otters since 2003; however we have not yet had any success with breeding at the Zoo. It is hoped that this new pairing will be successful in producing some young Otters. Emiko is now approaching her prime reproductive period so keepers and staff have their fingers crossed for the future. Oriental Small Clawed Otters can give birth to between 1-7 pups in a litter so hopefully the exhibit will be home to a family soon.