The giant otters at Yorkshire Wildlife Park will be making a splash when it reopens in April as they show off their adorable cub.
Parents Alexandra and Orimar welcomed their first-born girl on Boxing Day and have been nurturing her through the winter while the award-winning park has been closed.
But the playful pup, who has yet to be named, is ready to make her public debut when the park, at Branton, near Doncaster, welcomes back visitors from April 12.
“This is Alex and Ori’s first ever cub and they are doing an exceptional job, they are very attentive,” said Tim Connors, an animal ranger at the park.
“This birth is really important because giant otters are endangered. Their numbers in the wild are dwindling due to deforestation especially in the Amazon rainforest, water pollution and, unfortunately, hunting for their fur.”
Giant otter cubs are born blind and need constant attention from their parents in the early months until they build up their strength and develop skills.
“They have been inside a lot during the winter, but we can’t wait to see all three of them in the main pool when the youngster is ready,” added Tim Connors.
Alexandra and Orimar, who are visitor favourites because of their impressive diving displays and fun antics, have been inseparable since being introduced last October and are loving their new role as parents – with Alex enjoying her first Mother’s Day on Sunday as a mum.
They are part of the European breeding programme initiative which involves zoos around Europe working together to save this charismatic species, which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Giant otters were almost wiped out in their native South America by hunters, pollution of local rivers and wetlands by mining and deforestation but concerted efforts have helped them survive and slowly rebuild populations to around 5,000 although they remain an endangered species.
Donations to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation from park visitors and supporters have been instrumental in establishing a key project in the Cantao region of Brazil to support and protect the species to save them from the brink of extinction.
YWPF Trustee Cheryl Williams said, “Sadly now they’re in trouble again so the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation supports a conservation initiative which patrols that big reserve to protect against poachers and illegal fishing and at the same time do a lot of research about these amazing animals.”
The park, which is temporarily closed, is due to reopen on April 12 when pandemic restrictions are scheduled to be lifted.
It has over 5km of trails and is the UK’s No. 1 walkthrough wildlife adventure offering visitors unique opportunities to get close to more than 400 species of beautiful and rare animals.