Six Flags visitors will catch their first glimpses this weekend of the park’s newest animal addition — six furry baby otters.
The litter of Asian small-clawed otters was born in a California zoo on July 2, said Dave Peranteau, senior supervisor of animal training at the Six Flags Great Adventure and Wild Safari parks.
The animals are still bottle-fed and eat every four hours, said Peranteau — who wakes up in the middle of the night to feed them.
“We have two of them with me at home,” he said during a telephone interview Thursday. “It’s just like raising a child — or six children.”
The six otter pups consist of two males — Jackson and Baxter — and four females — Cali, Roxi, Pearl and Sushi.
In the wild, the otters would live in freshwater rivers and lakes in southeast Asian countries.
With their Six Flags animal trainers, the pups are learning to swim and eat their first morsels of fish.
Currently, the one-pound pups’ favorite pastimes are sleeping and cuddling, Peranteau said.
“They basically sleep on top of each other, but they love sleeping in towels,” he said. “They find it very reinforcing to sleep in our arms. They’re little cuddle monsters right now.”
Once adults, they will weigh between 9 pounds and 10 pounds each, he said.
Starting this weekend, the otters will spend their days in Six Flags Great Adventure within its “Safari Discoveries” area. Once they become confident swimmers, the otters will stay in a pool that once housed sea lions, where Six Flags visitors can watch them frolic.
In their new home, Six Flags animal handlers will bring out the otters for educational programs, said Peranteau, who hopes the exposure will bring awareness to the plight of the species.
In southeast Asia, the small-clawed otters are hunted and face pollution and habitat destruction, according to Six Flags officials.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, more commonly referred to as CITES, lists the Asian small-clawed ferret as “near threatened” and regulates trade of the animals to protect their species.
Peranteau hopes their place at Great Adventure will give “them their just due in the spotlight.”
“Showing people that these animals are intelligent as they are, and as adorable as they are — hopefully that will lead to at least an awareness that these animals are endangered,” he said.