A birthday bash at Brooklands Zoo in New Plymouth was 'otter' this world
It was a birthday celebration like no "otter".
An ice cake made with pilchards, prawns and shelled peanuts was certainly a delicious treat for Asian short-clawed otters, Jala and Jemima, who celebrated their birthdays at Brooklands Zoo on Thursday.
"They're getting up there," assistant curator Eve Cozzi said of their age. "Otters typically live to be 14 to 16 in the wild but in captivity, they'll live to be at least 20 years old."
While the day was not technically Jemima's birthday, as she turned 14 on April 7, 16-year-old Jala didn't seem to mind sharing his special day.
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The "very active and social species" clearly enjoyed their "enrichment items", Cozzi said.
Boxes wrapped in birthday-themed paper offered the otters mini play houses, complete with fish for them to drop in the pool.
"They like to clean their food," Cozzi said.
And they liked to play with it, too.
"They're very tactile. They have webbed fingers and like to play with small items."
Zoo keeper Kim Archer, who had made the two frozen fish cakes, deserved recognition, Cozzi said.
"Excuse the pun but I said, 'it's an otterly fantastic cake'," she said with a laugh.
"Kim has made cakes in the past, but she was exceptionally proud of this one."
The Puke Ariki Library's Discover it! team were in attendance and told otter-themed stories to the crowd of more than 30 children.
"They also sang otter-themed songs like, 'if you're happy and you know it, wipe your whiskers," Cozzi said.
But it was the "Happy Birthday" song that kicked off the afternoon event as toys and cakes were presented to the otter friends when the crowd clapped in celebration.
"I'm really happy with the turnout," Cozzi said.
Though the birthday bash was a hit, Cozzi said it was not always possible.
"Puke Ariki happened to be available this day and it being school holidays with good weather, it just worked out perfectly."
And with more than 80 animals in the zoo, Cozzi said not every animal could have a party of their own.
"But keepers will acknowledge their birthday in some way."