111821 SB Zoo Otter Pups

Four healthy Asian small-clawed otters were born on Nov. 12 at the Santa Barbara Zoo, marking the first litter born at the zoo in four years for the vulnerable species.

Santa Barbara Zoo recently grew its critter family after its resident female Asian small-clawed otter gave birth to four healthy pups on Nov. 12, marking the first litter born at the zoo in four years for the vulnerable species.

According to the animal care team, the pups' first health check was completed and a follow-up wellness exam is scheduled where they hope to confirm the otters' gender. 

The pups' mother, Gail, was born November 2013 at Greensboro Science Center, North Carolina, and arrived at the Santa Barbara Zoo in March 2017. Father Peeta was born in February 2008 at Fort Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington, and arrived in 2012. Gail and Peeta’s last litter was born at the Santa Barbara Zoo on October 7, 2017, and includes oldest son, Berbudi, who is pitching in to help raise the new pups.

As a result, the family of seven will remain off exhibit for as long as two months while the pups mature and learn how to swim, the care team announced.

Asian small-clawed otters are the smallest of all 13 otter species and are found in southern India, southern China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and typically live in small streams, rivers, marshes, rice paddies, seacoasts and mangroves.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species confirms that the species is considered vulnerable due to habitat loss and poaching.

The Santa Barbara Zoo functions as part of the Species Survival Plan, a cooperative conservation program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums which aims to maintain genetic diversity within protected animal populations, sustain the populations and guard against extinction.

Gail and Peeta's care is sponsored by Peter and Pieter Crawford-van Meeuwen, and the public is invited to become Foster Feeder sponsors for the new pups. New Foster Feeders receive a personalized digital Foster Feeder certificate that includes the honoree’s name and otter photo, and recognition on the Foster Feeder board at the zoo. Various donation levels are available on the website with different benefits.

For more information and to become a Foster Feeder, visit sbzoo.pivvit.com/asian-small-clawed-otter. For regular updates on the pups and family, visit the Zoo’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels.

Lisa André covers lifestyle and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record, editions of the Santa Maria Times.


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