Triplet otters are born at Lansing’s Potter Park zoo
LANSING, MI – North American river otters at Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo have delivered their first set of triplets.
Nkeke gave birth to the three puppies on Wednesday, February 3 – almost a year after her last litter.
“This is the third litter of Miles and Nkeke puppies, and while each litter has been exciting, this is even more so since this is their first group of triplets,” said said Carolyn Schulte, otter breeder at Potter Park Zoo. “Nkeke is an experienced mum and thanks to her great relationship with the keepers, we were able to closely monitor the puppy’s growth to ensure that they are each growing at a healthy rate.”
The puppies weighed 107 grams, 88 grams and 75 grams and while Nkeke has a lot of experience as a mother, Potter Park Zoo animal health director Dr Ronan Eustace said triplets can be tough to breed for an otter.
“With the triplets there are more demands on the mother and we are cautiously hoping that she can raise all three without vet intervention,” he said.
Dr. Eustace believes that two of the puppies are female and one is male. The puppies are breastfeeding regularly for the past few weeks and will be continuously monitored by the animal care team over the next two months.
The first signs of pregnancy were seen last month, but a phenomenon known as “implantation delay” made it difficult for staff to estimate a due date, according to a press release.
Delayed implantation – a trait shared by around 100 other mammals – occurs when a fertilized egg is not immediately implanted in the uterus and remains dormant for an indefinite period of time.
River otters are at least eight months late, but the egg can remain dormant for up to 273 days. Once implanted, gestation lasts about 60 days.
Nkeke transferred to Potter Park Zoo in 2016 from Roger Williams Zoo in Rhode Island, and Miles was the first otter birth from Potter Park Zoo in 2013.
As per the Species Survival Plan (SSP), the Association of Zoos and Aquariums recommended that Nkeke and Miles breed, and they have produced seven puppies since. The first litter of two males was born in February 2018, and the second – also two men – in February 2020.
Otters are born entirely furry, but take about five weeks to open their eyes. They start playing around six weeks old and start swimming lessons soon after. Because the breeding is done by mom alone, zoo visitors can still see Miles on the show, but will have to wait a few months before Nkeke and the puppies are on the move.