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A l-otter fun and love among Melbourne Zoo's adoreable duo

31 May 2019

Which Melbourne Zoo residents have tiny webbed claws, beady eyes, long white whiskers and are arguably the most otter-ly adorable species in the animal kingdom?

It’s none other than the zoo’s precious pair of Asian Small-clawed Otters, Oscar and Paula, who are celebrating World Otter Day this week to raise awareness about their vulnerable cousins in the wild.

The inseparable pair dash with their miniature feet in unison and slender tails side by side when keepers scatter food and place a miniature raft topped with treats for the Otters to discover.

Wild Sea Life Sciences Manager, Adrian Howard, said his team continually develop a variety of problem-solving and fun-filled challenges to stimulate the Otter pair and encourage their natural behaviors.

“Today we placed a mini raft afloat in the water of their exhibit, and on top of that raft we had some treats in the form of Yabbies for the Otter’s to find,” Mr Howard said.

“Paula and Oscar came running out searching and then dived into the water and successfully located the food by jumping atop of the floating raft.

“The purpose of enrichment activities like these is to provide the Otters with something that is interesting for them to interact with that also helps stimulate natural behaviors such as foraging, territorial marking and social interaction.”

Mr Howard said Paula and Oscar had shared a special bond for eight years, often participating in the enrichment activities as a pair and rarely leaving each other’s side.

“These guys spend a lot of time together and get along really well,” he said. “On a cool day at the zoo they love to cuddle and snuggle up together in their little heated cave. They have been a lovely couple for a long time.”

Asian Small-clawed Otters are native to South-East Asia and are the smallest of the world’s 13 sub-species of Otters. They are classified as vulnerable in the wild, with human threats such poaching and habitat destruction to make way for residential developments and tea, coffee and palm oil plantations, all contributing to the worrying decline of their population. 

Zoos Victoria’s ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’ campaign aims to raise awareness about unsustainable palm oil production in the habitat of the Asian Small-clawed Otter and advocates for the clear labelling of palm oil on products in Australia. A change in labelling would enable consumers to make informed choices at the supermarket and help to prevent further destruction of natural habitats. Anyone can make a difference by pledging their support via Zoos Victoria’s website.

You can see the amazing Asian Small-clawed otters, Paula and Oscar, up close at Melbourne Zoo from 9am-5pm, seven days a week.