Photos by John Reed
Last year on October 16, giant otter Sarave gave birth to three pups: two girls and one boy. Their names were chosen by donors through our Toast to Conservation event. Meet Annie, Ken, and the other female who patiently waits for her name!
They join our very dynamic and charismatic family of Buddy (dad), Sarave (mom), and their four siblings born in June 2019: Eleanor, Aiden, Olivia, and Coker.
It’s customary for giant otter families to all work together to teach the new pups how to be successful otters. For siblings to be good parents in the future, the experience of raising their own siblings is invaluable. Each sibling carefully practiced carrying the pups and attending to their social needs. Coker stepped up as a great role model for the pups and a great assistant to Sarave. The older girls were a bit more mischievous and had moments of playing rough with their new siblings. Sarave, Buddy, and Coker worked hard to make sure all the pups were together, warm, and nursing often.
The role for dad the second time around is generally to be a babysitter for the older generation. Buddy spent time swimming and lounging with older kids while Sarave was busy with pups. He also loves to snuggle with his new offspring.
Now, the family can be observed in their exhibit most days by guests! You can tell giant otters apart by their throat patch because each one is unique. Annie has the most markings on her throat and is also the largest of the pups. She hits milestones first and patiently waits for her brother and sister to catch up. She’s the most likely to be seen swimming with the others in a group. Ken is full of sass and doesn't have markings on his throat, just a small white area near his chin. As the smallest, he seems to feel like he has something to prove and tells everyone about it constantly. Our second female has a wispy pattern across her throat but can easily be mistaken for Ken. She is the perfect middle child. She has a spunky attitude and is attentive to the family’s activities.
For keepers, it's a joy watching the family grow and learn together. Like humans, they must learn everything. When they are learning to walk, it seems like it takes their backend a little longer to fully function, so they waddle and flop adorably while they’re figuring it out. Going from nursing to eating fish is also a challenge! Their little bodies would often shake with a silly grimace on their face while they were first trying the fish. Now they confidently chomp away. Otters are very vocal, so hearing the tiny, shrill squeaks grow into to the boisterous calls they make now is a true testament to how far they have come already.
Next time you visit Range of the Jaguar, pop in to the Emerald Forest Aviary to see this family up close. We’re excited to continue to watch them grow as a family.