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We’re otterly excited about Tocantins

You may have noticed that our male giant otter, Bakairi, has been living the bachelor life for the last few months. While he seemed to enjoy the quiet life and extra attention from care staff for a brief period, he seems even more excited to have a new companion! Enter Tocantins. Tocantins, or Toca as we keepers call her (Tocantins is a hard word for us non-Portuguese speakers!), came to us this October.

Toca was recommended by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Giant Otter Species Survival Plan® (SSP) to be Bakairi’s companion. Toca is Bakairi’s aunt. Some of you may remember that Yzma, Bakairi’s last companion, was also his aunt. Well, you guessed it … Yzma and Tocantins are sisters. We had a good feeling that Bakairi and Toca would get along.

You may be wondering how exactly we introduce a new otter. With any new addition to Zoo Atlanta, the new animal goes through a short, routine quarantine period. The quarantine period is just a precaution most zoos take before introducing any new animal to the existing population, to ensure the health of all. Thankfully for animal care team members and otters, the quarantine period was short. After Toca was given a full examination and a birth-control implant (remember they’re related) by our Veterinary Team, she was given the all-clear.

So, what’s the next step in introducing Toca? Howdies! Howdies are when the otters only have a mesh barrier between them, so they are actually able to touch and get to know each other better. As with howdies for any animal, we are prepared for any potential risks by having multiple keepers observing and having emergency equipment in hand. As we expected, the howdy between Toca and Bakairi went otterly amazingly! They instantly met each other at the mesh and each put their paws through to touch one another. At one point, I swear it looked like Bakairi was rubbing Toca’s back.

Needless to say, we didn’t have to wait long before conducting full introductions. Full introductions are exactly how they sound. The otters can share the same space. During introductions, they immediately started playing and swimming together. Now, they are together full-time and seem to really enjoy each other’s company. You can often see them cuddling poolside in their habitat. If you haven’t seen our newest addition, make sure to stop by and say hi to Toca and Bakairi!

Kelly Daire
Keeper I, Mammals

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