NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher introduces its first otter pups to public

FORT FISHER, NC (WWAY) — For the first time since being born on May 21, three Asian small-clawed otter pups joined their parents Quincy and Leia in their habitat for the public to see Wednesday morning.

WWAY was there for the special moment to see the baby otters.

They are not even three months old yet, but the three Asian small-clawed otter pups already have an otterly big fan club on social media.

“We’ve been looking at the aquarium Instagram and the second we saw that they were gonna be here, we were going to be here as early as we could,” UNCW student Matthew Powell said.

Staff and visitors did not have to wait long for pup one, two, and three to make their first entrance for you and me in their pup proof public habitat.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had otter pups here,” Aquarist Shannon Anderson said. “The first moments were so exciting.”

It was a special moment for aquarist Shannon Anderson who has been taking care of the whole otter family since the pups were born. Anderson said they were not sure if the pups would actually come out, but they had a little help.

“Fortunately. Lea and Quincy are very confident parents and so it was great to see them come right on to habitat and kind of go into their old routine,” Anderson said.

She said their dad is very protective and immediately got to work doing what dads do.

“He’s making sure that that whole space smells like him again and he’s re-establishing that territory. So that cute little waggle dance that you saw,” Anderson said.

Anderson says you can also see the pups otterly different personalities.

“Pup number one, she is the largest. She’s very dominant. We’re doing training sessions to go onto the scale and she has picked it up like that,” Anderson said.

She says pup number two was the smallest initially.

“But she is actually the one that opened her eyes first. She is the one that emerged out of the nest first. And she is really sassy too,” Anderson said.

“Pup number 3 is our really shy little pup. She is usually the one that is going to be trailing behind the family and she is very very cautious, but she has a really sweet demeanor and when she puts her paws through the fence, she wants us to rub her little paws,” Anderson said.

Now that we have followed them on social media and met them in person, that just leaves one *otter thing left to do.

“We are a very family oriented, science based community obviously and so we want everyone to realize that this is a great success not just for just the individuals here, but for our community overall, so we wanted them to be involved in selecting names,” Anderson said.

The community has four different name variations to choose from online or at the aquarium.

“It’s really funny. I’ll come over and like look into our little submission box here and I’m looking to see if I can kind of cheat myself.. I’m just excited,”

Anderson said. Whether you’ve been working with otters for almost a decade, or this was your first time seeing the pups in person, this was an otterly exciting moment for everyone.

“It’s just something you come here and see and it just makes you happy,” Powell said.

When we asked which names are in the lead, we were given a hint saying it is otter this world.

Anderson said this is a special moment that is also a good reminder about conservation efforts for otters around the world. Asian small-clawed otters are a vulnerable species. They are native to Southeast Asia and Indonesia.

“A lot of their threats are habitat loss and destruction along with illegal pet trade and of course climate change,” Anderson said.

She said a lot of people don’t realize that Americans here in the states can contribute and make a big difference over seas by making sure you are selecting products that are being harvested sustainably and habitats not being destroyed.

“A lot of coffee comes from those places, so when you go to the grocery store, flip over your bag and make sure that it’s shade grown, so you know that Asian small-clawed otter habitat is not being deforested to grow coffee plantations,” Anderson said.

Staff say the decision to place the pups in their habitat came after they reached two important milestones—exploring shallow water and eating solid foods.

The otter team spent the past several days baby proofing the area and preparing to present the Otters on the Edge habitat to the female pups.

“These pups have come a long way since being small and fragile when they were born,” otter keeper Shannon Anderson said. “The Aquarium team is looking forward to sharing them through the public habitat.”Aquarium staff say throughout the process, parents Leia and Quincy have been given space to succeed and teach the pups otter skills, something only they can do. So far, they have proven to be very attentive parents.

They have a shallow tub in their behind-the-scenes den where papa otter Quincy has been introducing them to water. He also began sharing his clams, smelt and shrimp with them.

There’s still time to cast your vote for the names of the new otters.

You can submit your pick HERE.

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(Photo: Hannah Patrick / WWAY)