Otters take on ‘ballboy’ role as Wimbledon starts

Patty the otter digs for treats in the tennis ball. Picture: Blue Reef Aquarium
Patty the otter digs for treats in the tennis ball. Picture: Blue Reef Aquarium
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Otters at Southsea’s aquarium have been practising being ball boys and girls to mark the start of Wimbledon.

Staff at the Blue Reef Aquarium gave each of the Asian Short Clawed otters a tennis ball filled with treats such as mealworms, insects and monkey nuts.

Picture: Blue Reef Aquarium

Picture: Blue Reef Aquarium

The triplets, called Ralph, Patty and Selma, hit and shook the balls to reveal the nutritious treats hidden inside.

Displays supervisor Mark Beeston, said: ‘Otters are very intelligent and inquisitive animals.

‘It is important for us to provide lots of enrichment for them to ensure they keep fit and healthy.

‘Having the balls tied up on the rope allows us to check their under bellies and encourages them to use their back leg muscles when reaching for the treats inside.

Picture: Blue Reef Aquarium

Picture: Blue Reef Aquarium

‘Patty was very interested in the new additions to the enclosure and took no time in working out how to get the snacks inside.

‘Once we took them off the rope she even picked up one of the tennis balls in her mouth and took it into the holt.’

The otters are found throughout southern Asia including India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Unlike most otters, their front feet are only partly webbed and have short claws used for digging under rocks and in the mud.

These special adaptations make them particularly skilled and they can often be seen ‘juggling’ or playing with rocks and pebbles.

They are also highly social and intelligent mammals with a wide vocabulary. Scientists have identified up to 12 different calls.