Asian small-clawed otters, Leia and Quincy, welcomed three female pups into the world May 21 at North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.
Leia is among 16 breeding female otters in the country that are part of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan Program. Leia, 3, and Quincy, 8, are first-time parents.
These otters, native to Indonesia, southern China, southern India, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines, are the smallest of the species and listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Populations are declining because of several threats, including residential and commercial development, deforestation, the illegal pet trade, pollution, climate change, and poaching.
Fort Fisher aquarists Shannon Anderson and Vickie Burgfeld spent the day with the otter couple once there were signs of birth.
“Because pregnancies in this otter species can be difficult to detect and stillbirths are not uncommon, we were thrilled when we began seeing Leia and Quincy gingerly moving the newborn pups from one den to another and were able to count a total of three,” Anderson said in a statement.
Guests will have an opportunity to see the pups in their habitat, Otters on the Edge, once they are eating solid foods and become proficient swimmers.
“Visitors to the aquarium are very familiar with our two otter families. They are the first habitat guests experience when they enter our conservatory, so it is wonderful to share the story of these pups with the public,” said Hap Fatzinger, Fort Fisher director.
Dr. Emily Christiansen, chief veterinarian for North Carolina Aquariums, said staff will continue to monitor the pups’ growth and development, as well as ensure their parents have the calm and support they need to successfully raise them.
“All three pups are gaining weight, and Leia appears to be providing them with all the nutrition they need, which is especially encouraging and exciting as she is a first-time mom,” Christiansen said. “We know our community is as excited as we are to see these cute little pups in person; however, to ensure they remain safe and healthy, the family will be staying behind the scenes until the pups are more developed and mobile, and Leia and Quincy are ready to venture beyond the nest.”