I logged into my Facebook account tonight to discover that there was a post from my friend, Shirley McGreal who runs the International Primate Protection League in South Carolina. During the days when Shirley lived in Thailand (which is where she started helping primates over 30 years ago), she developed a love for Asian short-clawed otters. Here in the US, the IPPL has become a spot where not only gibbons but also these beautiful otters who need a home can live out their lives peacefully. Shirley told me that two Asian short-clawed otters from the Monterey Bay Aquarium just arrived at the IPPL. Everyone has been anxiously awaiting their arrival as after many years of attrition at the IPPL otter population, there remained just one lone female. These two guys (Dua and Satu) will keep her company, and so everyone is excited about them being there. It also appears that Dua has acquired a creative talent in California that may prove both useful and attractive. He has learned to play the piano.
Many zoos these days are paying attention to the quality of life of the animals who live there, and keepers are challenged to find ways to replicate some of the usually intense stimulation of life in the wild in a more sterile captive environment. Especially for animals we just don’t know very much about, it can pose all sorts of questions and difficulties. It does appear, however, that the keepers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium noticed that these otters have pretty dexterous “fingers’ on their feet, and decided tickling the ivories might be an interesting option. Now, I don’t know if this kind of musical talent will continue to be encouraged at the IPPL. However if it is, I guarantee you that the otters have a built in primate chorus with the gibbon population there. Every morning, there is a beautiful dawn chorus of song from these gibbons and I suspect that a little musical accompaniment might be a nice addition.
Photos by Mike Turco