Lots of our visitors will be aware that our family of Asian short-clawed otters are part of a global species studbook, aimed at conserving healthy populations of animals in captivity while safeguarding the genetic health of the animals under human care.
These programmes act to provide a future for some of the world’s most vulnerable species, especially where education and in situ conservation work are able to protect natural habitats and change destructive behaviours.
An assigned stud bookkeeper – in this case Jason Palmer from New Forest Wildlife Park, who is the European Species monitor for Asian short-clawed otters – liaises with all registered zoos keeping these animals to provide an overall view of how the species and individual animals are getting on, and to produce a plan for future management of them.
Our otter family is currently made up of mum Mimi and dad Musa, plus their four cubs born in March 2017 – Shirley, Rita, Irene and Buster. And as much as we love our otters (and we really do), it’s important that they play their own vital part in the conservation programme, so we’ve been liaising with Jason since the cubs were born to plan for them eventually moving on to new homes one day.
Next Thursday (30 August), that day will arrive for the three female siblings, who are now ready to set off and make their way in the world.
As with all families, the dynamics can change when youngsters start maturing; when individuals are added to or leave the group, or sometimes for reasons we just can’t identify. We all know how complicated families can be!
While we know how our cubs get along in their current environment – where mum and dad are very much top dogs – we need to make sure that we move them into the most suitable new surroundings.
So to help work that out, they are first going down to WWT Slimbridge in Gloucester, to spend time with our expert colleagues before heading to their forever homes.
While there, they’ll be living in an off-show pen where they can interact with each other and the team can observe them and their emerging personalities/temperaments when not under the watchful eyes of Musa and Mimi.
Now, we’re not new to this experience. We’ve waved off five of Mimi and Musa’s offspring to date and whilst there’s always an amount of sadness, there’s also excitement for the otters and comfort that all moves are well planned and organised down to the finest detail.
Between now and the moving day, our team will be preparing the young otters, carrying out health checks and making sure we have enough specialist staff available to ensure things go smoothly and are as stress-free as possible.
In the meantime, our members and visitors – who we know love the girls as much as we do – are welcome to come and wish them well on their new journey and we’ll also keep people informed of where they end up after their Slimbridge holiday.