Last week, a couple of our zoo keepers were busy collecting some animals from zoos around the UK.
One of the animals they collected from Dudley Zoo was a male Asian short clawed otter named Noodles. Otter species vary in size and the Asian short clawed otter is the smallest. They can be found in family groups of up to 12 individuals. They are very social animals which have a range of vocalisations they use to communicate with each other.
Noodles has been brought to us to form part of a breeding programme with one of our female otters already at Flamingo Land. At the moment he isn’t on display in the otter enclosure as he is being held in our quarantine area. This is so we are able to check he is healthy, behaving well and is not carrying any diseases or bacterial infections. After he has been in quarantine he will be paired up with a female otter and hopefully they will produce a litter of pups in the near future.
Breeding programmes are essential for maintaining the captive population numbers of endangered animals. To keep the genetic diversity as high as possible, each species is managed by a stud book keeper. They will recommend which animals should be paired together and which zoo they need to move to. They have all the relevant details about each animal such as gender, date of birth, and medical history etc. Most zoos in the UK are part of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria (BIAZA) and some within Europe are part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). Without these important links between zoos, animals would live in the same zoo for their entire life and may result in inbreeding and family members mating with each other.
The Asian short clawed otter is listed as vulnerable due to habitat loss, pollution of the rivers resulting in fish (part of the otters’ diet) numbers to decrease, and metal contamination in the water. Their population has reduced by more than 30% in the last 30 years and is continuing to decrease. The otter is native to multiple countries in south and south-east Asia ranging from India, Philippines, Taiwan and south China. As the human population is greatly increasing in this part of the world, the demand for resources is also increasing, which is having a negative effect on the populations of many species.