ROYAL OAK (WWJ) – The Detroit Zoo is showing off some of its newest arrivals.

Two male North American river otter pups – born April 2, 2014, to mother Whisker, 11, and father Lucius, 8 – made their public debut this week at the zoo’s Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat.

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The yet-to-be-named pups can be seen showing off their newfound aquatic skills in their 5,900-gallon pool with a waterfall and waterslide. Their habitat is designed so that small children can view the otters at eye level as they swim.

Elizabeth Arbaugh, Detroit Zoological Society Curator of Mammals, said otters are natural swimmers and, with maternal supervision, the pups quickly catch on.

Whisker (far right) swims with her two pups. (Credit: Jennie Miller/Detroit Zoo)

Whisker (far right) swims with her two pups. (Credit: Jennie Miller/Detroit Zoo)

“Whisker is an experienced and attentive mother, guiding her pups through many new experiences – the most important of which is to encourage and reassure them as they strengthen their swimming abilities,” Arbaugh said in a statement.

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The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) can weigh 20-30 pounds, and its slender, cylindrical body can reach 2-3 feet in length. The aquatic mammal sports short, dense, waterproof fur and profuse whiskers. The playful river otter is swift on land as well as in the water, though its loping trot can look somewhat ungainly compared to its graceful slide through the water.

Once abundant in U.S. and Canadian rivers, lakes and coastal areas, river otter populations have suffered significant declines as a result of fur trapping, water pollution, habitat destruction, pesticides and other threats. Today, they can be found in parts of Canada, the Northwest, the upper Great Lakes area, New England, and the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states.

Whisker (L) snuggles up against her pup. (Credit: Jennie Miller/Detroit Zoo)

Whisker (L) snuggles up against her pup. (Credit: Jennie Miller/Detroit Zoo)

Situated on 125 acres of naturalistic habitats, the Detroit Zoo is located at 10 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue off I-696 in Royal Oak. The Detroit Zoo is open 362 days a year, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Labor Day. Admission is $14 for adults 15 to 61 and $10 for children 2 to 14, senior citizens 62 and older and active military with ID; children under 2 are admitted free.

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