SC.2023.09. Mandarin Otters
Charlie, a male Mandarin otter:
Most otter species are considered mischievious, playful, and intelligent, sociable, like Giant Sea Otters, but the most such specie is the Mandarin Otter, who are a joy to watch, with their dark tops to their heads, white cheeks and colourful red/orange throats.and
A mandarin otter couple raises up to seven cubs every year, in the spring. Unlike their green-footed cousins, but like their giant sea otter cousins, they mostly prey on arthropods, and shellfish, not bony fish. But unlike the latter, the only bony fish they (rarely) eat are minnows, as their mouths are smaller, and their impressive, massive and dense teeth, being set more closely together, do not let them eat the larger bony fish easily
A family unit of otters is called a playground, and it is quite the sight to see them bringing shells, rocks of various sizes and textures, for juggling, or to break up shells to get at a particular food item. They also mock-fight among family members almost constantly, being good natured, and never hurting each other. This is quite the contrast when a stranger is spotted. Detailed studies have shown that a stranger is defined by someone whose odor is distinct from the group, and this 'odor' seems to only be perceived on dry land, anyone swimming in the communal water is part of the in-group, and trusted. This can lead to hisses and spats, later, but only on land, once everyone dries up. The sense of smell of both freshwater otter species from Gogur has been measured to be two orders of magnitude more sensitive than a dog's, and remain the most sensitive senses of smell for which detailed information is available. This is thought to be because according to most biologists, they train their senses of smell to detect prey in the water, and in doing so, their sense of smell on land is made much more acute.
The echolocation of this species is considered sensitive as well, and their hunting of smaller fish and crustaceans is made easier this way, although they are not as sensitive as the black maskfish or the silver maskfish.
Otters care deeply for their playground, and share food and groom each other as a sign of belonging. A lone otter will often be despondant, suffering the equivalent of depression, and may even die, just from loneliness. However, this is often prevented, as they will adopt members of other species as part of their in-group, rather than not have any.
"Dit-dit. Chirp-chirp-chirp." The green-footed domesticated otter was squeaking to its cousin in the enclosure.
"Aww, how cute he wants to hold your hand?" The otter inside the aquarium was holding out its paw to the glass as if it wanted to reach out to its cousin outside it. Jor-Jie's eight green digits dwarfed the bigger otter's smaller, five-digited hand, over the glass. Shibué talked to Jor-Jie all the time, hoping that tone made it through at least, but knew true comprehension wasn't really possible.
"Is he flirting, is he a handsome boy otter?"
"Dit-dit-chirp-chirp-wahooga." Jor-Jie sounded upset, or perhaps, disappointed, in her last vocalisation.
"I'll take that as a no. I'm sorry you're lonely though..." She rubbed the otter's scruff, and they went back to their business, which was accompanying their principal to this zoo, announcing renovations and an expansion. A new pavilion was being opened, otters which had migrated from Gogur to Kagomei due to habitat displacement and climate modification were to be showcased. Three species recently introduced to Kagomei were represented: Mandarin Otters, Green-eyed, green-furred Otters and Giant Sea Otters. The otters they had just visited were to be moved into larger, more naturalistic areas, as well as the next ones...
"Oh, look at that one Jor-Jie!"
The green otter in question was poking his nose on the glass, and had paws spread on it, fully intending to traverse this 'evil force field' and greet the female otter of its own species properly.