After spending the first few months of their lives hidden away, Edinburgh Zooâ€™s oriental small-clawed otter pups are finally ready to make an appearance , and photographer David Meikle was lucky to be there to snap them!
Otis, Eliza and Ella, who are the first pups to parents Elena and Ray, have been keeping a low profile since they were born in July, but now seem to be making the most of the wintery weather.
Kathleen Graham, Head Keeper for Hoofstock said â€˜During the first three months of their lives the pups were hidden in underground dens, their parents moved them periodically from den to den after checking no one was around so it was difficult to catch sight of them.
â€˜It is great to see the pups making more of an appearance now and the best time to catch them is the afternoon. They are very playful and spend a lot of time exploring the enclosure on their own – under the watchful eye of Elena and Ray of course!â€™
Proud parents Elena and Ray were introduced to each other in January this year and it appeared to be love at first sight for the pair, who are part of the smallest otter species in the world.
Kathleen continued, â€˜We had noticed Elena and Ray spending a lot of time together shortly after they were introduced, so it was no surprise when Elena gave birth to two girls and a boy. Small-clawed otters pair for life in the wild and both parents contribute to raising the young, so we hope that Ray and Elena can go on to be a very successful breeding couple here at the Zoo.â€™
Known for their nimble, hand-like front paws, the small-clawed otter pups are now nearly 5 months old and are fed on a diet mostly of sprats (fish), chicks, mice and eggs. They are occasionally given treats like molluscs as enrichment to keep them busy.
The otter enclosure has plenty to keep them occupied, with a waterfall and several pools where they can spend time swimming and playing as they would in the wild.
Oriental small-clawed otters are the smallest otter species in the world and are known for their nimble, hand-like front paws. These front paws allow the otters to catch many types of prey, including crabs, snails, molluscs, small fish and insects in the water, as well as amphibians on land.
The range of the Oriental small-clawed otterÂ in the wild is quite large, stretching from India through Southeast Asia and up to the Philippines, Taiwan and Southern China.Â Oriental small-clawed otters live in fresh water streams, lakes, peat swamps, rice fields, reservoirs, canals and mangrove forests.
Otters can be very noisy and use up to 12 distinctly different calls. They have a powerful, rudder-like tail that propels them in the water and sensitive whiskers called vibrissae which allow them to feel for underwater vibrations to detect the movements of prey in muddy waters.