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Potter Park Zoo welcomes otter pup triplets

The pups were born on Feb. 3, almost a year after Nkeke’s last litter.
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 12:58 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo announced their North American river otters Nkeke and Miles welcomed three pups.

The pups were born on Feb. 3, almost a year after Nkeke’s last litter.

“This is Miles and Nkeke’s third litter of pups, and while each litter has been exciting, this one is especially so since it is their first set of triplets,” said Carolyn Schulte, Potter Park Zoo otter keeper. “Nkeke is an experienced mom and thanks to her excellent relationship with the keepers we have been able to monitor the pup’s growth closely to ensure they each grow at a healthy rate.”

At two days old, a physical exam was conducted to gather baseline body weight and check for any abnormalities or injuries. The pups weighed in at 107 grams, 88 grams, and 75 grams.

Potter Park Zoo’s Director of Animal Health Dr. Ronan Eustace said triplets can be challenging for an otter to raise.

“With triplets, there are more demands on the mother and we’re cautiously hopeful that she will be able to raise all three without veterinary intervention,” said Eustace.

While it is difficult to determine gender at this stage, Eustace believes two are female and one is male. The pups have been nursing regularly over the past few weeks and will be regularly monitored by the animal care team over the next couple of months.

Nkeke’s pregnancy was first observed last month. Due to a phenomenon known as “delayed implementation,” it was difficult for staff to estimate her due date. Delayed implementation occurs in approximately 100 other mammals. River otters delay for at least eight months, but the egg can remain dormant for as many as 273 days. Once it has been implanted, gestation is about 60 days.

Nkeke arrived at Potter Park Zoo in 2016 from Rhode Island’s Roger Williams Zoo. In 2013, Miles was born at Potter Park Zoo - the zoo’s first otter birth. Nkeke and Miles were bred at the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, and they have produced seven pups since. Two males were born in Feb. 2018, and the second litter of two males in Feb. 2020.

“Otter pups are born fully furred, but take around five weeks to open their eyes. They start playing at around six weeks and begin swimming lessons shortly after,” the zoo said in a statement. “Because rearing is done by mom alone, Zoo visitors can still see father Miles on exhibit, but will have to wait a few months before Nkeke and the pups are out and about.”

A contest for the names of the three pups will be announced in the future.

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