Thursday, January 7
For the past two years Zoo Atlanta has been home to two species of otters. We had the Asian small-clawed otters (ASCOs) as well as the giant river otters. While these two species lived in the same building and used the same exhibit, we were not ever able to physically put them together. Because of this, we used a rotation method for the otters. The ASCOs would go onto exhibit first thing in the morning and stay there until breakfast a couple of hours later. After breakfast, the giant otters would take their place in the habitat, where they would stay until mid-afternoon, when the ASCOs would once again take their place.
Several years ago, when the decision was made to obtain giant otters, many of the members of our large ASCO family had already been placed in other zoos where they started families of their own. When the giant otters arrived, we only had three remaining ASCOs from the original family of 10. The three remaining otters were parents Moe and Nava Lee, along with their daughter Harry. Because of the advanced age of Moe and Nava Lee, we decided to let them live out the remainder of their years here the Zoo. Harry, on the other hand, was prime for starting her own family at another institution, so we started to set the plans in motion for this.
Placing animals in other zoos is not always as easy as it sounds. There has to be another zoo out there with a need for your animal before you can send your animal to a new home. Sometimes, this process can take several months to find a suitable new home. As time went by, as it tends to do, both Moe and Nava Lee sadly passed away, leaving Harry as the sole ASCO in the Zoo’s collection. As luck would have it, she did not have to stay by herself for long, because a suitable new home was found for her. While we were waiting for all of the details to be ironed out, the keepers began training Harry to be comfortable with calmly entering her shipping crate. Sometimes this is a long process, but Harry was a champ. Because she was comfortable with the crate pretty much from the start, we actually left it in her den and allowed her to build her nest and sleep in it. This was great, as she would now be shipped in a crate that she was extremely comfortable with and where she felt safe. This is optimal as it eliminates a lot of challenges during the move. After a lot of hard work from the Zoo’s registrar, all of the paperwork and permits were soon all approved and obtained. Early on the morning of December 17, we came in to get Harry in the crate and take her to the airport. We allowed for a little bit of wiggle room with the time, because no matter how much training you do, there was always a chance that she would not enter the crate for us, and we would have to come up with an alternate crating plan. On this day, however, no additional plans were needed. Harry was up and ready to go, and when we readied her crate, she literally threw open the door and ran into the crate and remained calm as we loaded her in to the van for her trip to the airport. Several hours later, she was in the air. After a two-hour flight, she arrived safe and sound in her new home, The Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, and Zoo. After a standard quarantine period, she will be introduced to one of their male otters, and the family making can begin.
While this brings us to the end of an era here at Zoo Atlanta, where we have housed ASCOs since 1997, it also brings us to the beginnings of another era: the giant river otter era. These large (some would say giant), beautiful, and usually very vocal guys will now be in the otter habitat all day long. If you haven’t had a chance to see them yet, make sure to make it a point to come check them out.
Lead Keeper, Carnivores
Lead Keeper, Carnivores