Woburn Safari Park has announced the arrival of a female Asian short-clawed otter pup, a member of a species vulnerable to extinction.
The pup was born to first-time mother Beatrix and father Kovu in the Bedfordshire park.
Being a member of the smallest otter species, the tiny pup weighed only about 50 grams at birth eight weeks ago, roughly the size of a golf ball.
Keepers were listening attentively for the pup’s squeaks when they suspected Beatrix had given birth in the pair’s secluded den back in December.
They left the parents to their independent pup-rearing for around six weeks, ensuring they were undisturbed during the important bonding time before performing health checks.
The pup is expected to start eating solid food in just a few weeks and to begin swimming very soon, under the careful guidance of her parents.
Keepers hope the pup will be joined by siblings, as Beatrix was brought to the park from Flamingo Land last year as a potential mate for male Kovu, and the pair have been inseparable ever since.
The park has called the birth a “vitally important success in Asian short-clawed otter breeding”, as the species is classed as vulnerable to extinction out in the wild due to habitat destruction and pollution.
The park warned that Asian short-clawed otters are also threatened by the exotic pet trade, which has accelerated in recent years due to viral videos on TikTok of these otters being kept as pets, it said.
The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums warns that engaging with this material online contributes to the perception that these animals can be kept as pets and may increase the numbers of otters being poached in the wild to be sold into the illegal pet trade.
Woburn Safari Park said the conservation of this species is vital to ensure their future.
It added that the birth could help to educate the public about otter conservation and the importance of enriching and natural lifestyles for otters in captivity.
Visitors can spot the pup, Beatrix and Kovu at their purpose-built Otter Falls enclosure at Woburn Safari Park.