Rescued otter pup on the mend at aquarium

A group of Grade 7 Clarendon Primary pupils look on as the rescued African clawless otter pup tucks in.
RECOVERING WELL: A group of Grade 7 Clarendon Primary pupils look on as the rescued African clawless otter pup tucks in.

After washing up on East London's West Bank injured and undernourished, a five-month-old African clawless otter has been given a new lease on life.

The male otter pup was found last week by residents who immediately alerted the East London Aquarium.

Extremely weak and with injuries to its hips, the young otter was in desperate need of care.

And the otter found it in the form of BCM's senior manager of marine and zoological services, Siani Tinley.

“He was found over a weekend and we didn't have a scale available at the time, but he was extremely skinny. His hip bones and spine were visible and by feeling it was clear he had very little muscle mass or fat, ” said Tinley.

She said the muscular damage and bruising to his hips had healed well over the last week.

“We think he must have got hurt and was no longer able to keep up with his mom, so he got left behind, ” said Tinley.

Receiving veterinary attention while in the care of the aquarium, the pup began eating over the course of two days and has slowly regained his strength.

Now weighing a healthy 3kg, the cute animal is full of mischief and playfulness.

“His eating and his condition over the last week have improved incredibly. He is full of character and intelligence,” said Tinley, who has had her fingers nibbled a few times while feeding the pup.

This is the first African clawless otter to be in the care of the aquarium. Tinley said they had received guidance from experienced facilities and individuals on caring for the animal.

She said the aquarium aimed to find a rehabilitation and release facility with a successful track record for the pup.

“We want to make the most of his age. He is old enough to not bond completely with humans and that makes him a suitable candidate to be released back into the wild, ” Tinley said.

She said the release programme would still be a lengthy one.

“With these little otters, you have to teach them everything; how to swim properly, eat and hunt so they need a lot of full-time work, ” said Tinley.

She said African clawless otters were commonly found in East London, but that there were not many left in the wild.

“They are usually close to water because they eat fish and shellfish and live in tight family groups.

“They are shy, elusive animals and are usually busy at dusk or dawn so they're difficult to spot, ” said Tinley.

“So if you see one in the wild or crossing the beach in the early morning or late afternoon, consider yourself blessed.”