Making a splash in the Highlands

Thursday, 06 Sep 2012

A new water-loving arrival is settling in to her new home in the Highlands, the soon to be three year old Eurasian otter moved up to the Highlands from her sister park Edinburgh Zoo in June this year.

Rebecca_EurasianOtter.jpgThe youngster, who keepers have named Rebecca after Olympic swimmer, Rebecca Adlington, has taken to her new watery home extremely well since arriving at the Park.  This playful semi-aquatic youngster can often be spotted swimming and splashing around her pool in the enclosure; despite not being known as sociable animals, Rebecca has been responding well to the keepers, and has even been known to pop up out of the water if she hears their voices.

These truly fascinating animals live in burrows, which they make in the bank of water ways, known as holts, which are accessed underwater - perfect for keeping out any unwanted guests. Otters diets are mainly made up of a variety of fish and crustaceans and can dive down to depths of 20metres staying underwater for around four minutes at a time.

As well as being one of the UK's most famous mammals, Eurasian otters are also one of the greatest conservation stories within the last century. These characterful creatures neared extinction throughout most of the country due to polluted water ways, pesticides and a dwindling population of prey species including fish and crustaceans. Thankfully, this species is once again thriving throughout the UK due to a major improvement in the health of rivers, a reduction in the use of pesticides and an increase in fish and other prey populations. 

David Barclay, Senior Animal Keeper at Highland Wildlife Park, said:

"Having been without Eurasian otters in the park for over two years now it's great to have this species back, and as an iconic Scottish carnivore, gives us the ability to educate visitors about these truly amazing creatures.

"Although she adopted the natural shy and elusive behaviour of her wild counterparts when she first arrived, she is now full of confidence and can be seen swimming and diving in and around her pool area. Given she arrived with no name, her impressive swimming skills and the summer of the London Olympics, it was no surprise we gave her the name "Rebecca" after Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington.

"Now fully settled into her new enclosure her playful personality can be seen and we will often see her bobbing in and out of the water when she hears our voices. As an omnivorous species we offer a wide variety to her diet but it has become clear that the fresh locally sourced trout and salmon we get is by far her favourite.

"We have yet to decide whether or not we will bring in a male "dog" otter to pair with Rebecca but given their predominantly solitary lifestyle this is unlikely to faze her. In the meantime however it is a privilege to have otters back and it will be a joy for me and the other animal keepers to educate visitors about the Eurasian otter and let them know their great conservation success story throughout the UK."

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