Prague Zoo introduces baby smooth-coated otters

The species is listed as vulnerable and the births are a first for the zoo

Prague Zoo is the first in Continental Europe to breed smooth-coated otters. Seven pups were born in January and are just now leaving their burrows to be introduced to the public in the zoo's Indonesian Jungle pavilion. Aside from Prague, the same type of otters have only been successful in breeding in Europe in the UK.

The zoo on Facebook called the babies miniature copies of their parents. The mother is a 6-year-old female named Kiri and the father is a 3-year old male named Scotty. So far they have been exemplary parents. At first, only the mother showed interest but now that the babies are more active the father is spending time with them. They are growing rapidly and already learning to swim, but still spend a lot of time in their enclosure.

Prague Zoo has had smooth-coated otters since 2013 and is one of only a few European zoos to have them. The zoo acquired the breeding pair from the UK.

The species is listed as vulnerable, which is one step above endangered. In the wild they are found in most of the Indian Subcontinent and eastwards to Southeast Asia, with a small separate pocket in Iraq. The fur is shorter and smoother than other types of otter. The wild population is declining due to loss of habitat and pollution in waterways.

Smooth-coated otters are relatively large. They have a more rounded head and a hairless diamond-shaped nose than other types of otter. The tail is flattened and the legs are short and strong, with large webbed feet bearing strong claws.

The zoo was ranked the fourth-best in the world by users of the travel site TripAdvisor in July 2015, beaten only by zoos in San Diego, California; Puerto de la Cruz, Spain; and Singapore.

Prague Zoo had a particularly successful year in 2016, reaching 1.4 million visitors for the first time in one year. Two baby elephants born in 2016 have been a big draw. Other births last year included an aardvark, giraffe, a viper, a rare giant rat and a rare African openbill. The zoo saw a total of 1,191 juveniles in 223 species. The zoo also has been drawing crowds to see rare lions that it acquired at the end of 2015.

Prague Zoo opened in 1931. It currently covers 58 hectares with 50 hectares used for exhibits. It has over 4,700 animals from 681 species, including 144 species listed as threatened. The zoo has 12 pavilions and over 150 exhibits. It has been particularly active in the preservation of the Przewalski's horses, which are slowly being returned to the wild.

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