Meet the latest furry addition to the family at Washington Wetlands Centre - an Asian short-clawed otter cub.
Little Squeak – as the female cub has been affectionately nicknamed because of her high-pitched cries – was born on May 22 to Musa and Mimi, the award-winning wetland centre’s popular otter pair.
WWT Washington’s aviculture and captive animal manager Kristian Purchase said: “Our staff and volunteers are very excited to announce the safe arrival of Little Squeak.
“It’s still early days for her – she currently weighs 149 grams, has no teeth and won’t open her eyes until she reaches about 40 days old – so it will be a few weeks before Musa and Mimi bring her outside.
“We can report, however, that they are proving to be excellent parents.
“Mimi is feeding her well and Musa is regularly toileting her; carrying her to the latrine at the end of the holt to relieve herself before returning her to Mimi.
This is a brilliant conservation in action success story for both the WWT Washington team and, of course, Musa and Mimi.Gill Pipes, WWT Washington
“Our wardens are also closely monitoring her, and visitors can hear all about her progress and what her arrival means for our team during the daily talks at 11.30am and 3pm.”
New parents Musa and Mimi were first introduced at WWT Washington on Valentine’s Day 2013.
Musa was born at WWT Martin Mere in Lancashire on October 3, 2009, while Mimi began life at Chessington World of Adventures on July 20, 2011.
WWT Washington’s centre manager Gill Pipes said: “This is a brilliant conservation in action success story for both the WWT Washington team and, of course, Musa and Mimi.
“Asian short-clawed otters are a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.
“The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust works alongside the IUCN otter working group to maintain a healthy captive reserve of bloodlines should the species fall into further decline in the wild and need help.
“WWT’s international work also 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, able to successfully breed.”
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.
So although she is tiny and helpless right now, Little Squeak will one day be big enough to help to raise her own siblings, should Musa and Mimi have further young.
Kristian added: “Asian short-clawed otters are very sociable and often play group games, while helping younger generations to develop hunting and swimming skills.
“Our visitors and members will have 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 new accessible platform.
“For now, the holt itself will be temporarily cordoned off, to give them the privacy and quiet time that they need.”
Here’s a few otter facts
• 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.