Photo credits: Jason Collier/SeaWorld Orlando, c/o Zooborns
These are some of SeaWorld Orlando's newest arrivals: a pack of four Asian Small-Clawed Otter pups. The Asian otters (Aonyx cinerea) are the smallest otter species in the world, reaching only 0.9 m (roughly 3 feet) from nose to tip of the tail when fully grown. Like other otters, they live in rivers, creeks and estuaries. These otters are unique in that they capture food with their paws instead of their mouths, and have specialized forepaws which have a human-like proficiency and coordination when feeding on the small animals that make up their diet.
These otters once lived all over Asia, but due to habitat loss and hunting, they are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. SeaWorld breeds small-clawed otters as a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan. The goal of the program is to protect and preserve in zoos and aquariums animals that are threatened or endangered in the wild.
I, for one, would kill to be the biologists behind the scenes taking care of these four little tykes. I mean, LOOK AT THEM. And I dare you to do so without an "aw" escaping your lips.