EXPLORIS Aquarium has announced the birth of the first Asian small-claw otter pup to be bred in captivity in Northern Ireland.
The arrival of the rare pup, on December 15, had been kept secret until now to give it time to settle in with parents Sungari and Bourbon.
Small Claw Asian Otters are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, due to the loss of their habitat, the fur trade and pollution.
It is for this reason that Exploris staff have given the otter family time to settle into family life allowing the parents, who form monogamous partnerships, to build a nest for their new arrival,who has not yet been named.
Head of Animal Welfare and Husbandry at Exploris, Victoria McCready, explained their rarity meant a few precautions were needed to ensure a successful gestation period of 68-74 days.
“This has included minimising noise and visitor traffic surrounding the otter enclosure,” she said.
“However, as the pup gains more confidence, in the coming days and weeks, it will be more visible at Exploris.”
To mark the mid-term and the Northern Ireland Science Festival, Exploris will host a series of events including a guided tour by guest speaker Professor Jaimie Dick, from Queen’s University Belfast, on Friday evening entitled The Sea at Night.
Other weekend events include microscopy workshop, marine experiments and talks on animal adaptations and dissection demonstrations.
Exploris general manager Ann Moreland said staff were delighted by visitors numbers, which she said had exceeded 80,000 since its reopening last year.
She said they were also delighted by positive feedback about the visitor experience and also the economic benefit of the aquarium to Portaferry.
Full details of Exploris events are available online at explorisni.com