If youve spent any time watching the Zoos North American river otters or our Asian small-clawed otters, youve probably noticed that otters seem almost as home in the water as most fish. But, did you know that otters have to be taught how to swim? Otter pups arent born with any innate knowledge of how to swim or handle themselves in the water. And since otters depend on water to survive, mom has to teach her babies how to be as home in the water as they are on land.
In March, Audrey, the Zoos North American river otter female, gave birth to three healthy male pups. At around 30 days old, the pups are strong enough to begin their swimming lessons although sometimes, theyre not the most enthusiastic students much like kids everywhere.
But Audrey is a good mom and a patient, persistent teacher. She teaches each pup individually at first this allows her to focus her full attention on each pup and each lesson especially since its the first time the pups have been in the water. Audrey teaches the pups in stages making sure each pup is comfortable with one step before moving on to the next.
Typically, Audrey eases her pup into the water, then teaches him to float. After floating comes swimming, and the pups learn how to maneuver and swim, skills that are vital to their survival as adults. Once the pup is confident as a swimmer, Audrey teaches him to dive and move underwater. Then, she teaches each pup how to dry off and stay warm after a dip in the pool.
As anyone whos been swimming knows, swimming is exhausting! So once the pups lesson is over, Audrey carefully carries the little one back to the den where they immediately nap and get some much needed rest.
Before long, the pups are confident swimmers and well on their way to becoming the expert swimmers that all otters seem to be. And, once the pups are venturing out of the den and swimming well, Audrey will begin the group swimming lessons. Its a sight to behold and, often, simply too adorable for words.
The North American river otter habitat at the Zoo is now reopened to the public. Be sure to stop by on your next visit and you might be lucky enough to see Audrey teaching her pups the essentials of being an otter!
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is open 363 days of the year 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Memorial Day weekend and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. General admission is $12.99 for adults, $7.99 for children ages 2 to 9 and seniors 60+. Children under 2 and Columbus Zoo members are free. The Zoo was named the #1 Zoo in America by USA Travel Guide and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA.) For more information and to purchase advance Zoo admission tickets, visit www.columbuszoo.org