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Rare Asian small-clawed otter pups pass first hands-on vet check

February 19, 2019 6:30PM PerthNow

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One of the otter pups wrapped up in a cloth while being checked by the vets. Picture: Simon Santi media_cameraOne of the otter pups wrapped up in a cloth while being checked by the vets. Picture: Simon Santi


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Three rare otter pups have had their first hands-on vet checks at Perth Zoo.

The Asian small-clawed otters were born in late December to parents Paddy and Cerdik, who were brought to Perth Zoo in 2017 as part of a program to help protect the species from extinction.

The two male pups and one female pup passed the examination* with flying colours. The vets said they were happy, healthy and strong.

Staff are particularly excited by the female, which they hope will be able to have pups of her own when she is older.

“Every animal birth is exciting but when we are part of a bigger program to help save a species it’s an even greater achievement,” zookeeper Aaron Stanley said.

“Unfortunately the Asian small-clawed otter is vulnerable to extinction.

“When people see them they often comment on how cute they are, but their looks are also a curse — it makes them a big target for the illegal wildlife trade*.”

Otters are born with their eyes closed and are slow to develop, so are usually tucked away from the outside world for the first 11 weeks of their lives.

A vet listened to the pup's heart and lungs with a stethoscope as part of its first hands-on health check. Picture: Simon Santi media_cameraA vet listened to the pup’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope as part of its first hands-on health check. Picture: Simon Santi

“Paddy however is a confident mother and secure with her environment, so she moved her newborns into a box right in front of a viewing window,” Mr Stanley said.

“Lots of zoo guests got the very special opportunity to view the pups in their infant* days, something rarely seen by humans.”

The Perth Zoo otter family now features nine otters.

  • Scientific name is Aonyx cinereus.
  • Also called oriental small-clawed otter or just small-clawed otter.
  • Semi-aquatic mammals native to rainforests in northwest India, southeast China, the Malay Peninsula and parts of Indonesia, including Sumatra.
  • Smallest otter species in the world.
  • Carnivores* that eat crabs, fish and molluscs such as snails.
  • They close their ears and their nostrils when they swim.
media_cameraAn Asian small-clawed otter at Adelaide Zoo last summer eating ice blocks with fish in them. Picture: Michael Marschall

Wild animals are bought and sold around the world to be kept as pets, to be displayed, or to be killed to be used for ornaments, jewellery and traditional medicines.

In most countries, it is illegal to buy and sell wildlife.

The illegal trade of wild animals puts species at risk of extinction.

It can also be cruel for the animals to be moved away from their natural habitat*, other members of their species and natural food sources.


  • examination: test, check
  • trade: buy and sell
  • infant: baby
  • carnivores: meat eaters
  • habitat: environment something lives in


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  1. When were the pups born?
  2. What is the name of these otter pups’ mother?
  3. How many otters are now at Perth Zoo?
  4. What do these otters eat?
  5. List some of the reasons it can be cruel to the wild animals to sell or buy them.


1. S.W.O.T Analysis
Divide a page into four column or four boxes.

Label each column or box with Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

Think about the Asian small-clawed otters born at Perth Zoo and the otter breeding program there aiming to help save the species.

Complete a S.W.O.T (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis on this topic.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical & Creative Thinking

2. Extension
“Their looks are also a curse” — explain this statement from the article in more detail about what you think it means.

What might people be doing to the Asian small-clawed otters causing them to be in danger of becoming extinct?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Ethical Capability, Critical and Creative Thinking

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Name three wild animals you would most like to see saved from extinction.
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking.

Extra Reading in animals