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Wildlife Wednesdays: Training Equals Great Care for Otters at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (and Some Incredibly Cute Photos)

Matt Hohne

by , Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs

Disney photographer Gene Duncan stopped by Discovery Island at Disney’s Animal Kingdom a few days ago during one of the training sessions for our Asian small-clawed otters that we do in front of our guests. The result: some incredibly cute photos that we wanted to share with you.

As regular Disney Parks Blog readers know, our animal keepers spend a lot of time training our animals—and it’s lots of fun, but it has a serious side too. We do the training so we can take great care of our animals. For example, by teaching the otters to stand on their hind legs, our keepers can get a good view of the body as part of daily visual checks to see whether the animals appear healthy in between regular veterinary exams. In addition, training can help ensure that each animal gets the right amount of food, as offering food is one of the positive conditioning techniques the team uses to train the animals to voluntarily participate in their own care. Training also is used as enrichment to encourage the animals to exhibit their natural behaviors, which is mentally and physically healthy for them, but it enables guests to see the cool adaptations that help the animals survive as well.

The next time you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, be sure to spend some time in Discovery Island with the animals that make their home there. In addition to the otters, you may come upon our animal keepers training animals as varied as lemurs, vultures and cotton-top tamarins. And be on the lookout for our education cast members, who share conservation and animal behavior messages about many of the animals—for example, did you know a flamingo eats with its head upside down?

More about Asian small-clawed otters:

  • Asian small-clawed otters are the least aquatic of the otters. They spend most of their time on land, where they find resting spots such as reed nests, rock caves or burrows.
  • The otters usually swim by paddling with all four limbs. Only the flat top of the head, nose, ears, eyes and rear part of the body is out of the water. When diving, however, the otter does not use the limbs, but uses powerful lateral wriggling motions and the tail to move through the water—similar to how a fish would swim.
  • Asian small-clawed otters are vulnerable due to habitat loss. Many wetlands are in decline because of a lack of water. There are many ways that all of us can help by reducing our water usage at home: plant native plants, don’t water the lawn unless needed, and don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth.

Read on for more “Wildlife Wednesdays”:


  • This is so cool, our three kids have loved the Otters at AK. We always make a point of stopping to see them every time we visit. A few years ago my son Connor, named the three that were there Tim, Timmy and Timothy. The Otters were no where to be found one year, but we were so excited last year when we discovered the new Otters, a brother and sister pair. They play together so well.

  • Great post! Lovable-looking little guys, those otters. I otter visit AK more the next time we go to WDW!

  • Wonderful pictures, the otters look so funny and loveable.

  • Squee! So cute! I love otters, thanks for sharing 🙂

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