By Lauren Fruen
THESE otterly adorable images show rare newborn baby otters born earlier this month – the first at the zoo in six years.
The three Asian small clawed pups are the first litter for “devoted” parents Gail and Peeta who will now raise the young at Santa Barbara zoo.
This species – the smallest otter in the world – do not develop fully webbed feet and are left with paws which look like human hands.
The last time this type of otter was born at the zoo was six years ago when pups were born to a pair named Jillian and Bob.
But animal lovers may not get a chance to see the rare otters until the end of the year.
A spokesman at Santa Barbara said: “These young otters will not leave the holding area until they are old enough to safely swim and have grown teeth so they can eat solid food.
“Depending on their development, keepers estimate the pups could go on exhibit as early as mid-December.”
Talking about their birth the zoo’s curator of mammals Michele Green said: “The parents didn’t come out to greet us and then we heard squeaks.
“That’s how we knew Gail had given birth.
“Gail only arrived in March and it’s been fun to watch them bond, and now become parents.
“She’s a young mom, but doing very well. Peeta is attentive and diligent.”
The parents’ names, inspired by characters in the popular Hunger Games books and movies, were given to them by their Santa Barbara Zoo sponsors Peter and Pieter Crawford-van Meeuwen.
When fully grown Asian small-clawed otters are about two feet long and weigh under 10 pounds, less than half the size of North American river otters.
The Asian small clawed otter is threatened in nature by palm oil farming, pollution and hunting.