Tuesday January 3, 2012
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Questions and Answers: In-Depth Responses
At what age would Asian Short Clawed otters breed? I care for 2: a male 11 months, female 18 months they have been nesting over the last couple of weeks and have gone off their feed slightly.Also how many times daily would you recomend feeding them? Some reports suggest 3 x daily others 5 or 6 x daily. Thanks
Gary Hampson, 20 April 2007
Response from Lesley Wright
The male is pretty young to have started - sexual maturity is usually at 18-months to two years. The female is old enough to start - usually they don’t fully mature till age two, but sometimes they can be early. If she is pregnant, it should be fairly obvious as she will get pretty round. Very young females do sometimes get pregnant but either abort or reabsorb the foetuses. From experience, going off their feed is often a sign that she has lost the cubs, as if she is still pregnant she will be wanting more food not less. It is not uncommon for females of any age to lose their first litter this way. Females that are going to full term are very noticeably pregnant, plus shortly before giving birth, the nipples become very obvious and the fur often moults from around them. In the last week or so, the male will start taking her food.
Watch to see if mating resumes in the next week or so - if so, she was either not pregnant or lost the litter.
Increased nesting may be a sign of pregnancy, but it can also be in response to the weather, or particularly pleasing bedding (eg if a favourite bedding plant has started growing, or a change from straw to hay), plus some pairs of otters just like to keep their holt comfortable.
Three times a day is a good feeding schedule (certainly better than two), but four would be better e.g. before opening the zoo, two public feeds, then a final one before the keepers leave. If you can add a couple of scatter feeds eg of fruit, veg, bits of seafood, peanuts, mealworms etc between main meals, it replicates the wild situation better. There is always entertainment value in frozen prawns etc for short-claws. There is some research that suggests that more meals per day and a wider variety of food corelates with lower kidney stone occurance in foraging carnivores, and it has been suggested that this is because their digestion expects a fairly constant input of high calorie value food instead of spikes of food at long intervals. The best schedule is feeding on demand with a wide variety of food, but that usually isn't practical.
If the female is pregnant or lactating, you should feed as much as she wants, in as many meals per day as you can manage so as to reduce the strain on her system. It sounds as though she is an early starter, so it would be wise to get a bit of weight on her as a cushion against increased energy demands. Short-claws can be quite plump with no adverse effects (in fact, they can be practically globular with no ill effects, but it isn't considered aesthetically pleasing). The extra fat gives a good reserve if they get an infection or injury, or are unexpectedly pregnant.
Response provided 08 May 2007
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