Wildlife centre staff overjoyed after birth of four otter cubs


Staff at a wildlife centre were overjoyed after a pair of otters became parents to cute quadruplets.

Asian short-clawed otters Mimi and Musa are a popular attraction at the WWT Washington Wetland Centre in Tyne and Wear, and the new arrivals have a big sister, Squeak, born last May.

The quadruplets came safely on March 3 and looking after them is a family affair, with Musa and Squeak caring for new mum Mimi.

WWT Washington's aviculture and captive animal manager Kristian Purchase said: "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."

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 (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) works alongside the IUCN otter working group to maintain a healthy captive reserve of bloodlines."

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.

Mr Purchase 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."

The centre said the public will be able to see the new arrivals in the coming weeks but for the moment their holt is closed off to allow them the quiet they need to thrive.