Cute quadruplets have been born at a Wearside wildlife haven.
Four Asian short-clawed otter cubs arrived safe and sound at Washington Wetland Centre.
The new arrivals were born to Mimi and Musa, the award-winning wetland centre’s popular otter pair. The quadruplets arrive just 10 months after the pair's first otter cub ‘Squeak’ was born last May.
Kristian Purchase, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) Washington’s aviculture and captive animal manager, said: “Our staff and volunteers are very excited to announce the safe arrival of four otter cubs .
“It’s still early days for them – they currently weigh 140g on average, have no teeth and won’t open their eyes until they reach about 40 days old so it will be a few weeks before Musa and Mimi bring them outside. Once again, they’re proving to be fantastic parents so we will be as hands-off as possible to let them bond and grow as a family.
“It’s been fantastic to see Musa and Squeak taking care of Mimi, bringing her food and bedding. We’ve even witnessed Musa collecting water to pass to Mimi in what looks like a ‘kissing’ action – something I’ve never heard of in Asian short-clawed otters which is incredible. Musa has also been teaching Squeak how to be a brilliant big sister and she’s certainly stepped up to the mark.
“Our wardens are closely monitoring all four cubs and visitors can hear all about their progress and what their arrival means for our team during the daily talks at 11.30am and 3pm.”
This is the second litter for Mimi and Musa who were first introduced at WWT Washington on Valentine’s Day 2013.
Musa was born at WWT Martin Mere in Lancashire on 3 October 2009, while Mimi began life at Chessington World of Adventures on 20 July 2011.
WWT Washington’s centre manager Gill Pipes said: “This is another fantastic conservation in action success story for both the WWT Washington team and of course, Mimi and Musa.
“Asian short-clawed otters are a vulnerable species on the IUCN red list and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) works alongside the IUCN otter working group to maintain a healthy captive reserve of bloodlines.
“WWT’s international work includes projects in areas that are home to wild Asian short-clawed otters such as That Luang Marsh in Laos and the Cambodian Lower Mekong Wetlands.
“We’d also like to thank our members and visitors for their valuable support. This allows us to carry out such vital conservation work, as well as keeping our own otters well looked after and healthy - and as a result they have gone on to successfully breed for a second time.”
Asian short-clawed otters form a bond for life and can have two litters of up to six young per year, with gestation lasting about 60 days. In the wild they live in extended family groups, with only the alpha pair breeding. Older offspring help raise their younger siblings and will stay with their parents for a long time.
Kristian added: “Asian short-clawed otters are very sociable and often play group games, while helping younger generations to develop hunting and swimming skills. The young cubs will learn a lot from big sister Squeak and we know she’ll be excited to have some playmates at her first birthday party in May!
“Our visitors and members will get some fantastic opportunities to witness this incredible behavior up close in the coming weeks once the family is out in the enclosure, with great views from our accessible platform. For now, the holt itself will be temporarily cordoned off, to give them the privacy and quiet time that they need.
“We look forward to sharing the cubs’ story in the coming months and can’t wait for you to meet them. In the mean time, please join us in congratulating Mimi and Musa on their new arrivals!”
Did you know?
Otters are part of the mustelid family, which roughly translates as ‘smelly animal’.
Asian short-clawed otters are the smallest of all 13 otter species, weighing less than 5kg.
They are found in the mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands of Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, southern China, Taiwan, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Their most distinctive feature is their claws, which don’t extend beyond the fleshy end pads of their partially webbed fingers and toes – hence their name!
Their sensitive finger pads mean they’re very dexterous and use their paws, rather than their mouths, to hunt prey including molluscs, crabs and other small aquatic animals.
They communicate through at least 12 different calls.
Their life span is anywhere from 11-16 years.
The main threats to their survival are habitat destruction, pollution and direct persecution from hunting and trapping.