Fort Fisher, NC — Antics and endless energy take center stage during the otter-watching experience at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher (NCAFF). Along with staff and volunteers, many regular visitors recognize each of the members of the two Asian small-clawed otter families and know them by name. Mae is one of the three females in the first litter born to Leia and Quincy in May 2022 and now mature, she has left the nest.

“It is natural behavior for a mother Asian small-clawed otter as the dominant female in the romp, to make the decision to move out mature female otter offspring. We fully anticipate her sisters, now also mature, will be ready to leave the nest soon,” said Shannon Anderson, lead otter keeper, NCAFF.

Mae’s litter mates are Stella and Selene. Her younger siblings born January 2023 are female, Gemma and males, Kai and Ren. While the family of eight is now a family of seven, the antics continue in Otters on the Edge. Visitors can see the family and their neighbors, Asta and Ray, a mother-son duo.

The Asian small-clawed otter births were important to the success of the Aquarium’s work through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program. Leia, who is five, was among fewer than 20 breeding female otters in the AZA SSP® Program in the United States. Asian small-clawed otters are a vulnerable species in their native habitats of Indonesia, southern China, southern India, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines.

It was exciting for the Aquarium team, volunteers and the community when the first litter of otter pups was born and to have a second successful birth in less than a year, just kept the spotlight on the otters.

Stella, Mae and Selene proved to be model big sisters through the birth and development of their younger siblings.

“The family dynamic and high-energy of the Asian small-clawed otters creates a connection for all of us along with the community. While our team will certainly miss Mae, knowing that we were successful in supporting her growth and readiness to leave the nest is very rewarding,” said Hap Fatzinger, NCAFF, director.

In collaboration with the AZA, the otter team transferred Mae in early October to another AZA-accredited facility to be a companion for a solo male.

Among social mammals, it’s an ordinary course of events that individuals of one sex or the other leave the birth group as they approach sexual maturity. This serves to minimize inbreeding, forcing maturing individuals to find mates in some other social group away from their siblings, cousins, and other kin.

The Aquarium continues to collaborate with the AZA SSP® and looks to the future to continue to play an important part in the survival of Asian small-clawed otters. Find more information about this species at NCAFF About Asian Small-clawed Otters.