Welcome Otter Pups

Otter Pups 3 website banner

Otter being weighedOTTER PUPS' Journey

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is excited to announce the birth of three female Asian small-clawed otters Saturday, May 21. This overwhelming amount of adorable represents success in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan®(SSP) Program. NCAFF aquarists Shannon Anderson and Vickie Burgfeld spent all day with the otter couple once there were signs that a birth was imminent. They both kept a watchful eye for indications of a successful delivery. Measuring stick with baby otter

○ Day 3—Monday May, 23 the otter team weighed the pups—one of the pups weighed in at 71.5 grams, another at 63.9 and the third at 56.2 grams, a little more than two slices of bread.

○ While they are underweight for this species, they continue to grow and gain weight, all positive signs.

○ Day 7 —Sunday, May 29 all pups doubled their birth weight.

○ The veterinary and otter teams continue to monitor them in a hands-off approach as much as possible to provide space for parents Leia and Quincy to bond with them.

○ They are tucked away in a nest behind the scenes under the attentive care of their parents. 




Leia & Quincy are ParentsLeia carrying new pup

Leia, age 3, is among 16 breeding females in the AZA SSP in the United States. She and Quincy, age, 8, are both first-time parents and from all signs, they are very attentive to their offspring.

○ The otter parents were born and raised in human care as part of the SSP.

○ Leia and Quincy, have been paired since October 2021 to advance the SSP shared commitment to cooperative populations and program management.

○ The otter team had been closely monitoring their activity to track opportunities for increasing the otter family.

○ A radiograph of Leia's abdomen on Wednesday, May 11 did not indicate any signs that Leia was carrying pups. 

○ On Friday, May 20, LeiaQuincy carrying a pup began building a nest and showing signs of heightened excitement.

○ Early Sunday, May 21, there were signs and sounds that Leia had given birth to at least two pups. 

○ Later in the day, the otter team counted three pups when Leia and Quincy began moving them.

○ Quincy wanted to snuggle with the new pups in a separate area and Leia was being very protective.

○ Leia returned the pups to her nest and exhibited to Quincy that she did not want them moved.






Watch Leia & Quincy react to having pups










Baby Bump

While a radiograph did not indicate a pregnancy, Leia gained weight and her growing abdomen was becoming very evident. Here are some facts about pregnancies and births in Asian small-clawed otters. 

○ Gestation is 68-72 days.

○ For first- time expecting mothers, false pregnancies are common.

○ Stillborns are also very common.

 ○ It is not unusual for some species to be unsuccessful raising the first few litters, and they need the opportunity to develop parental skills.



Leia with baby bump









Pup checkUP

Vet checking pupUnder Five Minutes

North Carolina Aquariums veterinarians examined the otter pups on Wednesday, June 1 in the first full checkup since being born on Saturday, May 21. The veterinary team only has a few minutes with the pups. To minimize time away from the protective parents, each veterinarian examined a different pup. This was an opportunity to check overall health of the newborns in under five minutes. 

○ weight
○ temperature
○ vitals—check of heart and lungs
○ mouth—check for a cleft palate 

Check up went well

The feedback from the veterinary team is that the pups looked healthy and were gaining weight.

Otter Keeper with pups


Otter pup getting mouth checked















otter development

Guests will have an opportunity to experience the pups in their habitat Otters on the Edge once they are eating solid foods and have become proficient swimmers.We will all follow the journey of these new pups together. They are still fragile and have some important milestones to reach, before they will be ready to venture into the habitat. We will share with our community on our social media platforms when that big day arrives. In the meantime, here are some of the developmental stages for otter pups.

• 2.5 weeks—use legs to move around in their den box/eyes begin to open/teeth begin to develoP
• 6.5 weeks — begin leaving den box on their own 
• 7 weeks—trying solid food/eyes fully open
• 8 weeks—PUPS begin swim lessons in about four inches of water
• 13 weeks—teeth development complete
• 17.5 weeks—coats have waterproofing oil and pupS swim in pool





meet the otter team

Shannon_Vickie Aquarists
Shannon Anderson

Shannon has been the NCAFF primary otter keeper since August 2021, and has been with the Aquarium since February 2021. She  works and trains with the two otter families every day. She has worked in the zoo and aquarium field since 2011 and specifically with Asian small-clawed otters since 2016. She was already familiar with Quincy, having worked with him at the Greensboro Science Center as his primary keeper. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Organismal / Ecology from Kutztown University.

Vickie Burgfeld

One of my favorite parts about my job is training the otters along with experiencing how smart they truly are

Vickie is the assitant otter keeper and works with Shannon to provide excellence in the welfare of the otter families at the Aquarium seven days a week. She has been at the Aquarium since October 2021, and has been working with the otters since January 2022. Along with Asian small-clawed otters, Vickie worked with giraffes and Orinoco crocodiles at Zoo Miami—with experience dating back to 2018. She holds Associates in Applied Science in Zoological Science Technology and Aquarium Science Technology from Davidson-Davie Community College. 

Aquarist and Husbandry Curator with a Green Sea Turtle
Andrew Johnson

Andrew is an aquarist at the NCAFF and steps in to work with several species in the Aquarium. He has been an important team player in ushering in the new otter pups. Andrew  began volunteering at the aquarium the summer after he graduated high school, then was offered a part-time job in husbandry while attending the University of North Carolina Wilmington where he studied marine biology. He ascended to full-time aquarist after graduation.  He began working with the Asian small-clawed otter family— Asta, Oscar, Ray and Triton when they joined the Aquarium in  2020. He's been in the aquarium industry for nearly six years with a focus on saltwater fish and corals.





otter pup faqs


How can I get more information about the new otter pups and when can I come out to shoot some video?

Because the pups are still fragile, they will remain behind the scenes and unavailable for media photos or videos. Please reach out to Dey Romo Rossell, Communications Manager—512-618-2470 or [email protected] to schedule staff interviews.

When were the otters born?

The Asian small-clawed otters were born on May 21.

How many otter pups are there?

There are three otter pups.

How many pups are typically in a litter?

There are typically 1-7 pups in a litter.

How many males and how many females?

The three otter pups are all females.

Why can’t I see the otter pups?

We are excited about the pups too and can’t wait to see them. Presently, they are behind the scenes, and our otter and veterinary teams are closely monitoring their growth and development.

When can I see the otter pups?

The pups are in a fragile developmental state. Once they are eating solid foods and proficient swimmers, we will announce to our community on our social media platform and in the media that they will be on exhibit.

How is the health of the new otter pups? Are they okay?

Reports from the aquarist and veterinary teams are that the otter pups are gaining weight. They are hopeful the pups will continue to develop and grow. All indications are that Leia and Quincy are attentive parents.

When should I reserve my tickets to see the otter pups?

We will share updates on social media and announce when the pups will be in the Otters on the Edge habitat later this summer. Although, they won't always be in the habitat.

Why are these otters at the Aquarium?

Asian small-clawed otters are a vulnerable species. Leia and Quincy are at the Aquarium as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program. You can learn more at ncaquariums.com/ff-fun-facts/#OttersontheEdge

Will the pups be released into the wild?

No, not at this time. The goal of the SSP is to have at least one hundred years of genetic diversity, so if the need arises, we can assist with reintroduction projects in the future.


Asian small-clawed otters are native to Indonesia, southern China, southern India, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines. They are the smallest of the otter species and listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. Population numbers are declining because of many threats, including residential and commercial development, deforestation, the illegal pet trade, pollution, climate change, and poaching. Find out more at IUCN Red List




otter pup pics

  • Quincy carrying newborn Otter Pup
  • Leia carrying newborn otter pup
  • Otter Keeper Shannon Anderson  administering radiograph on Leia.
  • Cuddle puddle of three female otters born at the NC Aquarium Fort Fisher on Saturday, May 21.
  • Newborn Otter pup Day 3
  • Newborn Otter Pup being measured Day 3.
  • Otter pup measurement
  • Three-day-old pup gets measured and weighed.
  • Three-day-old pup on a scale.
  • Leia Radiograph May 11
  • Otter keeper Shannon Anderson takes a quick look at one of the newborn pups.
  • Cuddle Puddle 12 Days Old
  • 12-Day-Old Pup Veterinary Palate Check
  • NC Aquariums Veterinarian checks vitals on 12-Day-Old Pup
  • Veterinarians work quickly to examine three 12-day old pups

©   North Carolina Aquariums. All rights reserved. : :   Memphis Web Design by Speak