It’s the time of year when parents wistfully send their sons and daughters off to college, reflecting on how they’re all grown up. Zookeepers at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo find themselves in a similar situation. They are about to ship Asia, their “baby” Asian small-clawed otter, now mature at age 2.5, to a zoo in Perth, Australia.
“More than anything, we are excited, because she’ll actually get a mate and she is going to contribute to the otter population,” said Director Jonathan Miot. “The reason we have these animals is so that they can breed and maintain their populations, so in that sense, we’re thrilled.”
Asia will undergo a routine physical exam and then will travel by plane on Tuesday to her new home at the Perth Zoo.
She and her litter mate, Webster (named for his webbed feet), were born in April 2009, and named by the Gainesville community in October of that same year. The goal was always to raise the otters to maturity and then send them off to breed.
“We’ve been planning this move for a year. When you’re dealing with international travel it takes a while,” Miot said. “As happy as we are about this, it’s always sad to see an animal whom you’ve helped raise and care for, go to a new home.”
How much does an Asian-small clawed otter cost? The Santa Fe Teaching Zoo doesn’t sell its animals, but the Perth Zoo is paying Asia’s travel expenses.
Asian small-clawed otters, Amblonyx cinereus, are found in Southeast Asia. Their preferred habitat is shallow-water pools, ponds and streams. They use their sensitive hands to probe riverbanks for crustaceans, worms, small fish and eels.
The otters are highly gregarious. The family unit usually consists of an alpha male, alpha female and their offspring from a couple of litters. Once the male offspring have reached sexual maturity (about age 3) he will leave the family unit to either start one of his own or join a male group.
Asia is already removed from her enclosure, but you can still see Webster and parents Jay and Leakena, the next time you visit.
Admission is $5 for adults, and $4 for children ages 3-12 and seniors. (Those with a SF ID are admitted for free.) The zoo is open daily 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Northwest campus, 3000 NW 83rd St. For more information, please call 352-395-5601 or visit the Zoo’s website at www.sfcollege.edu/zoo.
Baby Otters at the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo – 2009 press release