When Elena met Ray & the patter of tiny paws….

October 20, 2010 § 1 Comment

We have some exciting news about our oriental small-clawed otters.

In September 2009 Ray, our male otter came to us from the Longleat safari park in Warminster and was joined in January of this year by Elena. The pair were slowly introduced to each other and it was love at first sight.

Ray & Elena Credit: RZSS

Our keepers say they had observed the pair spending lots of time together recently and on the 19th of July this year Ray & Elena had their first litter of 3 pups, 2 girls and 1 boy.

  Our pups are now 4 months old and are very playful, spending lots of time exploring their enclosure with mum & dad keeping a watchful eye nearby. The pups spent their first 2 months hidden away out of sight by mum and dad who move them from den to den around their enclosure.

In the wild adult pairs of Oriental small-clawed otters are monogamous which means they pair for life. Both parents contribute to raising their young.  After a pregnancy of around 64 days the female gives birth to a litter of up to 7 pups! but often there’s just 1 or 2 in a litter.  The Nest is made by the female from mud & grass dug out of the river bank where they live.

 The young otters open their eyes at 40 days old and at around 9 weeks old they take their first swimming lessons with mum & dad; only a few weeks later they begin eating solid food.  

Otters are very playful Credit: K. Hurst

Our otter family are fed a diet of sprats, chicks, mice and eggs daily.  We also give them occasional novelty foods such as different fish & mollusks as enrichment to keep them busy.  Our otters are most active early in the morning, so get to the park early if you would like to see them out and about!

In June 2002 we opened the oriental small-clawed otter enclosure, which includes a waterfall and numerous pools where the otters spend much of their time playing and swimming. In 2003 the enclosure was featured on the prestigious Zoolex website, which is the highest accolade in international zoo design. If you want to go visit them the oriental small-clawed otter enclosure, it is in the middle of the park, just north of the Mansion House.

The range of the Oriental small-clawed otter  in the wild is quite large, stretching from India through Southeast Asia and up to the Philippines, Taiwan and southern China.  Oriental small-clawed otters live in fresh water streams,lakes, peat swamps, rice fields, reservoirs, canals and mangrove forests. This species is the smallest otter species in the world and is known for their nimble, hand-like front paws. These front paws allow the otters to catch many types of prey, including crabs, snails, molluscs, small fish and insects in the water, as well as amphibians on land. 

  These otters are very noisy at times and have up to 12 distinctly different calls. They have a powerful rudder-like tail that propels them in the water and sensitive whiskers called vibrissae; to  detect the movements of prey in muddy water. Their tail has scent glands where they deposit their musky scent on their poo. The poo is called spraint and are deposited on tree trunks, boulders, trails and pool edges and has a very strong smell. Pewee!


Credit: K. Hurst





The numbers of Oriental small-clawed otters in the wild are declining due to many threats. The main threats include habitat loss due to farming, water contamination & overfishing of otters prey. Due to the declining population and the many threats that this species face, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the Oriental small-clawed otter as Vulnerable, meaning that the species is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

 IUCN Red List category: Vulnerable


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