Raise your hand if you’re as excited as Luani is about World Otter Day! The last Wednesday in May is the day that otters are celebrated worldwide so that organizations around the world can educate people about otters, conservation projects that help them, and different challenges they face. World Otter Day first started in 2009 as Otterly Mad Week, and through efforts by the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF), it became the International Otter Awareness Day in 2014 and then World Otter Day as we now know it in 2016.
The IOSF was founded in 1993 in the UK by people inspired by observing otters in their natural environment. Since then, they have become one of the world’s leading otter conservation charities working on projects around the globe to help protect all 13 species of otters! Their goal is to use compassion and science to inspire and educate people. The research they have conducted has proved invaluable in the various projects they have conducted including organizing international conferences on otter toxicology and on “The Return of the Otter in Europe – Where and How.” They have also assisted with and conducted population size and habitat research studies in countries like Mexico, Chile, the Commander Islands, Russia, and Thailand. To find out more about their current projects and to learn more about otters, check out their website at https://www.otter.org.
At the Lehigh Valley Zoo, you can meet our spirited North American River Otter named Luani! He was born in 2013 at the Lee Richardson Zoo and came to live at the Lehigh Valley Zoo in 2017. Like most otters, he is known for his curious nature and playful personality. Playful activities are actually very important because they help strengthen social bonds and help young otters practice hunting techniques. One of Luani’s favorite things to do during the winter is roll around in the snow!
Providing novel enrichment daily is one of the ways that we make sure that Luani is living his best life here at the zoo. Enrichment is essential because it enhances animal well-being by giving them the opportunity to exhibit natural behaviors and can provide mental and physical stimulation. One of Luani’s absolute favorite forms of enrichment is when his keepers make him giant forts made out of cardboard boxes!
Because otters live both on land and in the water, there is a lot that we can do to help them! North American River otters spend about ⅔ of their life in the water. They will use the water to hunt, play, and clean themselves. Water pollution has been a major issue for river otters since they have a low tolerance of pollution and so they are considered an important indicator species for aquatic habitats. This means, low numbers and low birth rates of river otters in a specific habitat probably means it is significantly polluted. By keeping the waterways and neighboring areas free of debris, pesticides, and trash we can help protect these critical aquatic habitats and save species like the North American River Otter.
Written by Tara Mlodzienski
Lehigh Valley Zoo | Schnecksville, PA