otters on the edge
Always on the move and otterly
fun to watch, the Asian small-clawed otters capture the hearts of visitors. Grabbing attention comes naturally to mother-son unit, Asta and Ray, and pair, Leia and Quincy—and it is a good thing that visitors stop to watch these energetic animals at play. Keeping the spotlight on this vulnerable species is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan®(SSP) Program
. Beyond delighting in their antics, we hope that visitors will discover the importance each animal, even a rambunctious otter, has on our ecosystem and spur to action new partners in conservation. Leia and Quincy are paired through the AZA SSP. The otter family was born and raised in human care as part of the SSP. Visitors and staff discover their energetic approach to eating and playing in the Otters on the Edge
habitat at the Aquarium. Asta and Ray are in one area of the habitat and Leia and Quincy are in another. In 2021, Tritan, Asta’s daughter, went to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. There, she was introduced to Han, Leia's brother, who came from the Kansas City Zoo. This pairing along with Leia and Quincy, who have been together since December 2021 advances the SSP shared commitment to cooperative populations and program management.
Asian small-clawed otters
• Asian small-clawed otters are the smallest of 13 otter species.
• Unlike most otter species, Asian small-clawed otters live in large family groups.
• The otters’ diet is mainly invertebrates followed by fish.
• Native to India, southeast Asia and southern China and are considered vulnerable due to habitat loss, loss of prey species and exploitation.
• Prefer “edge” habits, like small streams, rivers, marshes and other aquatic environments, spending large amounts of time both in and out of the water.
home at the aquarium
The approximately 3,000-square-foot Otters on the Edge habitat was renovated from existing space in the Aquarium’s conservatory. Funding for the $1.8 million habitat comes from the North Carolina Aquarium Society, aquarium receipts and private donations. David and Sydney Womack donated $600,000 for Otters on the Edge. The design, focused on the health and well-being of this vulnerable species includes interactive water elements, space for the separate otter family groups and a behind-the-scenes care area. The engaing nature of the otters makes them a favorite at the Aquarium. By capturing the hearts of visitors, the Aquairum teams shares the critical conservation of the Asian small-clawed otters which inspires action to protect them in the wild.
Asta & Ray
Momma Asta and her son, Ray don't miss an opportunity to snuggle or get engaged with enrichment activities that the Aquairum otter team creates for them. From otter-friendly birthday cake to crickets in a ball, this duo is all in. They are the first habitat visitors see when they come into the Aquarium and their enthusiasm is captivating. Asta's daughter, Tritan, spent some time with the family unit and the plan is for her to begin a family of her own through the AZA SSP. Her pairing with Han at the Georgia Aquairum in Atlanta has not yet yielded pups, but we continue keep track of her.
Quincy & Leia
Enjoying one another's company, Quincy and Leia are a delightful pair to watch as they busily scurry about their habitat looking for rocks or swimming in their pond. They also duck out of view in their special den from time to time. The Aquarium team closely monitors their activity to track opportunities for increasing the otter family. Underscoring the focus on the otters’ wellness and the hope that the family will grow, the team built a tube holding area through which the veterinarians can administer radiographs. This animal welfare tool also provides images to detect whether Leia is expecting pups as otter gestation is only 68-72 days. Ultrasounds do not provide a clear image. Watch our social media platforms for updates on our otter couple.
Pregnancy, giving birth and pup survival can all be very tenuous for Asian small-clawed otters. Because of this and the vulnerability of the species, the otter keeper and technician are continuously monitoring some critical behaviors and indicators that there is a successful pregnancy, including copulation frequency and the estrus cycle (otters are spontaneoius ovulators) which lasts 30 to 37 days. For first-time expecting mothers, false pregnancies are very common. Equally, as challenging, stillborns are also very common, and this is a species where hand rearing is contraindicated for animal welfare reasons.*
• The adults need the opportunity to learn how to rear pups.
• It is not unusual for some species to be unsuccessful raising the first few litters, and we need to give them the opportunity to develop parental skills.
• The pups learn a tremendous amount of social skills from their parents that we cannot provide to them.
*Protocols modeled from Denver Zoo and Santa Barbara Zoo birth plan.
Loggerhead Hatchlings — Hatch & Journey
We rescue sea turtle hatchlings that didn't make the initial trek to the sea from the nest. During sea turtle nesting season May - August, special care on the beaches to protect them is everyone's responsibility. You can have fun and keep the sea turtles safe at the same time. These tips should also become good habits when you are spending time on the beach.
What goes up must come down
Released balloons eventually make their way back to Earth. This creates a choking hazard for sea turtles. They mistake balloons for food and eat them. Hold on to your balloons, pop and discard them in the trash when the fun ends.
it's Everywhere and Here to Stay
Plastic is a major source of pollution. It never completely breaks down and remains constant threat for marine life. Choose reusable water bottles, lunch bags and coolers. Limit the use of plastics whenever possible.
you may be done fishing, but your line isn't
Carelessly tossed or cut monofilament fishing line never fully decomposes. This creates a serious threat for marine life. Place used line in labled receptacles for recycling.
sand castles love big, deep moats—sea turtles do not
Large holes pose a threat for nesting sea turtles. They can fall in and get trapped. Have fun and dig on, but fillin the holes when you finish.
Diamond back terrapin
This male diamondback terrapin is easy to spot as you enter the Aquarium and we share his story to engage visitors in the importance of protecting their habitats. This species lives in brackish water and eats small snails and crabs. Listed as a species of special concern, they were once overhunted for turtle soup. There main threat today is getting stuck in crab pots, as they need to breathe air and will drown if caught in a crab pot. To prevent terrapins from getting trapped, turtle excluder devices should be attached to crab pots.
South Atlantic White Shrimp
These crustaceans stay busy with 10 slender, relatively long walking legs and five pairs of swimming legs on the front surface of their abdomen. Here are five things to know about our newest aquarium inhabitants:
- White shrimp can jump from the water to evade predators with a rapid tail flex, a snap to the tail that propels them backward.
- Their bodies are light gray, with green coloration on the tail and a yellow band on part of the abdomen.
- They have longer antennae than other shrimp (2.5 to 3 times longer than their body length).
- White shrimp grow fairly fast, depending on factors such as water temperature and salinity, and can reach up to 7 or 8 inches in length.
- They are able to reproduce when they reach about 5 ½ inches long.
As with all the creatures in the Aquarium, white shrimp conservation and how their survival relates to other species is a priority. Here are some important sustainability facts about white shrimp:
- White Shrimp are a commercially significant species, commonly fished for throughout the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.
- Their populations are considered healthy, however other threatened or endangered species can be accidentally caught when trawling for shrimp.
- Careful regulation of shrimp fisheries, including the requirement of turtle excluder devices to prevent accidental catch of sea turtles, can make this a more sustainable fishery.