A river otter at the Oakland Zoo. Photo: The Consortium

The Oakland Zoo is celebrating the recent birth of two North American River otters named Tallulah and Ahanu—Native American Indian names that mean “Leaping Water” and “He Laughs,” respectively. This is a big deal for the zoo because it’s only the second time they’ve been able to breed North American River otter babies.

Zookeeper Andrea Dougall explained that the otters are not prolific breeders—they’re one of a few species that reproduce by “delayed implantation.” Otters mate in spring but don’t give birth until almost a year later. That’s because the fertilized egg hangs out for 10 months in-utero before it implants and grows.

This is the first litter for four-year old mother Ginger. When her pups were born February 15, they weighed a mere 100 grams. Tallullah and Ahanu have spent most of their young lives in seclusion, but were recently debuted to the public.

Though they’re still found across North America, river otters are endangered in some areas. Dougall explains that may be because they need clean, fresh water, and they’re extremely sensitive to pollution.

Video of the newborns should be available soon. But for now, here’s a look at some adult otters and their human admirers:

More Oakland Zoo video here.

North American River Otters Born at Oakland Zoo 5 May,2011Caitlin Esch

  • As an Ojibwe of the River Otter Clan, a traditional Wabeeno, I am happy to see this news of the river otter. They are very fine animals and have a long relationship with the ceremonial life of the northern woodland tribes of indigenous peoples.

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