Endangered Rare Giant Otter Quadruplets born at New Forest Wildlife Park

March 6, 2024

The New Forest Wildlife Park in Hampshire is thrilled to announce the birth of endangered giant otter cubs, a rare and momentous occasion that took place on the 25th of December 2023. The surprise litter marks the second successful birth for the otter couple Simuni and Ibera, who last year welcomed Karanambu to their family. Simuni is the oldest giant otter to have sired young in Europe at 13.5 years old!

The arrival of these quadruplets on Christmas Day is celebrated as a significant achievement in the conservation of this endangered species. 

Native to the Amazon’s lush forests and meandering rivers, giant otters stand as the largest among the 13 otter species, reaching lengths of up to an impressive 6 feet. Known for their playful nature and expert fishing skills, these magnificent creatures primarily feast on fish, including the fearsome piranha. Despite their awe-inspiring presence and unique characteristics, such as identifiable throat patches for individual recognition, giant otters face the threat of extinction. Habitat loss and hunting for their luxurious fur have led to a significant decline in their population, classifying them as an endangered species.

The cubs have been named Guapo (the only male), Laguna, Acari, and Runa.  These names were carefully chosen to celebrate the giant otters’ cultural and ecological significance, reminding us of the deep connections these animals have with their environment and the myths that surround them. 

Jason Palmer, Curator of Collections at the wildlife park and its sister site, Battersea Park Children’s Zoo, highlights the significance of these births, “With only 124 giant otters reported in zoos globally, 76 in Europe, and just 21 in the UK, New Forest Wildlife Park is home to 7, accounting for nearly half of the UK’s giant otter population. This achievement underscores the extensive expertise and dedication of the Heap family and the exceptional care and experience of our keeper team.”

“However, it is with a heavy heart that we acknowledge the cycle of life and nature’s inherent challenges, as we report the passing of two cubs, Laguna and Runa. Their loss is a reminder of the delicate balance in the conservation of these magnificent creatures and the high cub mortality rate among giant otters. It underscores the critical importance of our conservation efforts and the continuous need for research and understanding to safeguard the future of this extraordinary species. Our commitment to the protection and study of giant otters remains unwavering, as we honor the lives of Laguna and Runa and the ongoing journey of their siblings.”

The New Forest Wildlife Park is a proud affiliate of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) for the conservation of giant otters. 

Beyond, its physical location, the park actively supports global conservation strategies and collaborates with scientists and conservationists through the IUCN Otter Specialist Group to protect otters in their natural habitats. This commitment to conservation is integral to the park’s operations, aligning with the global efforts of organisations like the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the British and Irish of Association Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA)

Furthermore, the park is responsible for managing the UK-specific studbooks for Eurasian otters, preserving historical zoo records that date back to 1828. This vital role in the conservation landscape underscores the park’s broader commitment to fostering the survival and understanding of otter populations in the UK and around the globe.

The New Forest Wildlife Park invites the public and wildlife enthusiasts to join in supporting their ongoing conservation initiatives. These efforts not only contribute to the survival of the giant otter but also embody a collective endeavor to preserve the biodiversity of our planet for future generations to marvel at and enjoy.

For more information visit www.newforestwildlifepark.co.uk

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