Northern Ireland

Exploris welcomes NI's first baby otter bred in captivity

The little mammal's parents only allowed their baby out of the holt to explore the wider world this week
Image caption The little mammal's parents only allowed their baby out of the holt to explore the wider world this week

The Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry has welcomed a baby otter, the first one bred in captivity in Northern Ireland.

The little mammal has been kept under wraps by protective parents Sungari and Bourbon since its birth in December.

The pair only this week allowed their baby out of the holt to explore the wider world.

Sungari and Bourbon came to Exploris last year as part of an international captive breeding programme to protect the endangered Asian Small-Claw otter.

Image caption Protective parents Sungari and Bourbon arrived at Exploris last year

Sungari began to display signs of being pregnant late last year.

Staff at the aquarium said "whimpers and squeaking" alerted them to the new arrival on the morning of 15 December.

Image caption Along with Sungari and Bourbon, the young mammal will play a part in protecting the Asian Small-Claw Otter species

Otters mate for life and Sungari is a first-time mother.

To help the new parents adjust to their circumstances, the keepers are staying off-side as much as possible, so the pup's gender is not yet known.

Staff are hopeful that a vet will be able to do a health check in the next couple of weeks, so the sex can be determined and it can be given a name.

Image caption Keepers at the aquarium are trying to give the family of mammals as much space as possible, so the pup's gender is not yet known

Sungari and Bourbon split parenting duties, so when it is feeding time, one of them will stay with the pup while the other fills up.

The pup is being weaned at the moment - Sungari shares tiny pieces of fish with her baby before moving it to a full solid diet in the next couple of weeks.

Otters eat lots of fish and they love eggs, which the keepers hide around the enclosure for them to find.

Image caption Staff at the aquarium said "whimpers and squeaking" alerted them to the new arrival in December

The baby otter will grow to about 5kgs (11lbs) in weight.

Along with Sungari and Bourbon, it will play a part in protecting the Asian Small-Claw Otter species, which is at risk because of threats to its natural habitat and hunters in the fur trade.

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