Mammal Supervisor Linda King and otter keeper Audra Cooke guest-blog on ZooHoo! in celebration of World Otter Day 2017.
In honor of World Otter Day, we would like to take a moment to introduce you to the world of otters, especially our Dallas Zoo otters. You might be wondering, why are otters so important? There are 13 species found all over the world including Europe, Africa, Asia, and North & South America, where they often serve as symbols of healthy wetlands. Otters are truly amazing animals; not only are they fun to watch, but they play a huge role in indicating a healthy environment, which is important to all species – including us!
It is important to note that 12 out of the 13 otter species worldwide are on the decline due to hunting for the illegal fur trade, reduction in available prey, habitat destruction, and road deaths.
But did you know we have otters in our own backyard? North American River Otters (NARO) can be found all over the U.S., including the stints of the Trinity River that run straight through Texas. For several years, Texas was an otter-less state, but through clean-up efforts, NAROs have been able to make an amazing comeback.
Here at the Dallas Zoo, we care for Asian small-clawed otters (ASCO) which are the smallest otters, weighing in around 8-10 pounds and reaching only 2 feet in length. The Giant River Otter of South America, the largest of the species, can grow up to 6 feet in length and weigh an average of 70 pounds. Our otters are the most social of all the river otters, living in large family groups of up to 15-18 in the wild. Currently, at the Dallas Zoo, we house two breeding pairs. These pairings were suggested by the Species Survival Plan (SSP) and the stud book coordinator for ASCOs.
Jimmy, who is 11, was born here at the Dallas Zoo in 2006. He has just recently been paired with Jelly, a 6-year-old female born at the San Antonio Zoo.
Tasanee, age 3, was also born here at the Dallas Zoo to Jimmy and his companion at the time, Daphne. Tasanee has been paired up with Duranjaya, an 11-year-old male, who was born at the Newport Aquarium and arrived in Dallas almost 2 years ago.
You can see our otters at the Betty Moroney Norsworthy Otter Outpost where these two groups split their exhibit time. They spend their days swimming, eating, and playing in the large pool or napping almost anywhere on the exhibit. Take your time when you visit—they can sometimes be hard to spot, but they are always “otterly” adorable!!
Don’t forget to do your part to help keep north-central Texas waterways clean and otter-friendly.