Surf’s up for Melbourne Zoo’s otter family

Surf’s up for Melbourne Zoo’s otter family

Melbourne Zoo’s otter family is hanging 10 on little waves created by keepers in their heated pool.

Using their muscular tails and streamlined bodies to beat the current, the family of five Asian Small-clawed otters are otterly-stoked to be splashing, twirling and surfing against water from a hose.   

Melbourne Zoo wild sea life sciences manager Harna Burton said the keeper team noticed the otters loved the hose during routine cleaning of their habitat.

“One day we noticed the otters playing and splashing in the current created by the hose, so we decided to incorporate it as part of their regular sensory enrichment schedule,” Ms Burton said.


They’re incredibly curious and cheeky creatures, so it’s such a joy to watch them swimming and putting their sensitive paws up against the splashing water.


Otters are strong swimmers and use their tail to propel themselves through the water and to steer. They close off their ears and nostrils when swimming and can dive underwater for six to eight minutes at a time.  Their long whiskers also help them to detect prey items when foraging underwater and they use their sensitive paws to locate prey in murky water or mud.

Ms Burton said the younger pups enjoy playing in the water and paddling through the waves the most.

“Our three younger otters are so inquisitive and energetic and love twirling around under the water and fighting against the current, which is so fun for visitors to see,” Ms Burton said.   

Asian Small-clawed otters are the world’s smallest otters. They are classified as Vulnerable in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Native to rainforests in several Asian countries, wild populations of Asian Small-clawed otters are threatened by poaching and habitat destruction to make way for housing and unsustainable palm oil plantations.

Zoos Victoria’s Don’t Palm Us Off campaign is calling for the clear labelling of palm oil on products in Australia, to allow otter fans and all animal lovers to make informed choices at the supermarket. •

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