View from the Zoo: Otter cake on the menu for birthday treat

Otters at Flamingo Land enjoy tucking into the otter cake.
Otters at Flamingo Land enjoy tucking into the otter cake.

The staff at Flamingo Land are celebrating the first birthday of our two youngest otters.

Bear and Fen our two female otters enjoyed their birthday in style on February 4 by having a very special otter cake. They were joined by their parents Ruby and Noodles as well as their two-year-old sisters Beatrix, Nerina and Pearl. The cake consisted of frozen shellfish, mealworms, sprats and crabs.

Out of the 13 species of otters in the world, the Asian short clawed otter is the smallest, reaching less than a metre in length when fully grown.

Native to South East Asian countries, such as India, China, Malaysia and Indonesia, these animals are found in habitats where there is water and land, and have a varied omnivorous diet.

They are very socialable animals and live in family groups of around a dozen individuals. A range of vocalisations are used to communicate with each other, and they each have a role to play in their social structures.

Otters form a monogamous bond and pair for life. Whilst the female will remain the more dominant of the two, the bond between the alphas is strong and without this bond they would not be able to breed successfully. The alpha pair are the only ones that breed within the group, and the youngsters help out with looking after their younger siblings.

The alpha female can have up to two litters a year and have up to six kits in each litter. When the kits are first born, they are deaf and blind and so need their mother’s attention around the clock. The father takes good care of his female partner, bringing her food and being responsible for the cleanliness of the den.

Noodles has proved to be a very good dad, being vigilant with food and bedding deliveries. Soon, we are expecting to see the little ones explore the rest of their enclosure and to be taught how to swim by their parents.

The Asian short clawed otter in the wild is listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), they are commonly kept in zoos around the world. The otters at Flamingo Land are part of the European Breeding Programme.