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15 Jun 2017

What’s in a name? Introducing our baby otters!

Posted in All

What’s in a name? Well, more than you would realise when it comes to baby Asian short-clawed otters…

The four new cubs – Buster, Irene, Shirley and Rita – with their older siblings, mam and dad. Pic by Ian Henderson.

Because as tempting as it might have been to give our four new cubs pretty or funny monikers for the sake of it, we’ve actually had to be quite strategic in our thinking.

Last year’s young – Ash, Tod, Pip and Sam – have single syllable names with distinctively different sounds at the end, meaning they can easily pick out which of them is being spoken to when given commands by our team.

This is vital when gathering them up for health checks, for example, when we need to direct them into different crates.

This year’s cubs therefore needed names with extra syllables and different sounds yet again – much more complicated than just picking them out of a proverbial hat!

So, with their three month birthday approaching this weekend and without further ado, we’d like to officially introduce you to Buster, Irene, Shirley and Rita.

Enjoying a hard-boiled egg for breakfast. Pic by Ian Henderson.

Named after performers Prince Buster, Irene Cara, Shirley Bassey and Rita Ora because of how vocal they were when they were born, the cheeky siblings are now fully weaned and can be seen enjoying tasty titbits during feed times at their enclosure, with treats ranging from fish to crab to mince.

Unlike their older brothers and sisters – who all have distinguishing features – there are currently no obvious physical differences between the foursome (well, apart from the girly bits and boy bits!).

So until we learn their characters better, we’ll know who’s who through weight variations and microchip numbers.

And in what we believe to be a conservation first, the cubs’ mother Mimi recently received a temporary and reversible birth control implant while undergoing a regular check-up with the team at Dragon Veterinary Centre in Washington.

Sharing – or fighting over! – some tasty fish. Pic by Ian Henderson.

WWT Washington’s Living Collection Manager Kristian said: “Now that her youngest cubs are weaned, this will give Mimi much-needed recovery time after rearing nine healthy otters in under three years, including first daughter Ruby.

“It also means that we can stagger the age groups of her and Musa’s future offspring and help manage a healthy gene pool of captive Asian short-clawed otters – both here at WWT Washington and within the European population as a whole.

“She is doing brilliantly following the procedure which, to our knowledge, hasn’t been trialled in Asian short-clawed otters before, meaning she’s something of a pioneer for her species.

Mimi receiving her treatment at Dragon Veterinary Centre

“By monitoring her closely throughout this treatment, we are therefore actively contributing to important ground-breaking research on animal management that we hope will benefit the future of captive conservation for this declining species.”

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a charity that saves wetlands, which are essential for life itself.  Every day we’re at the heart of issues like well-being, nature, climate change and education.

Whatever the season, come rain or shine, WWT Washington Wetland Centre is the perfect place for you to connect with nature.

Open 364 days a year, our award-winning, family-friendly site offers an easy, safe space to enjoy the wonders of wetland wildlife, with a host of unforgettable wildlife encounters, regular activities and beautiful scenery all year round.

Meet all ten of our Asian short-clawed otters during daily talks at their enclosure (11.30am and 3pm).