Lockdown served as an unwelcome reminder that being cooped up inside with not much to do can be very sapping for the soul. The same is true for animals, which is why zoos across the globe had to get very creative when the total lack of visitors meant their animals were in need of some extra entertainment. One zoo even went so far as to set up a video link between their chimpanzees and another zoo's so they could ChimpanZoom one another (sorry, not sorry).
Providing engaging enrichment is a constant battle for scientists and zookeepers, as intelligent animals will soon tire of even the most novel of activities. Otters (who can juggle, by the way) have been given everything from puzzles to orangutan roommates to keep them entertained, but a recent video served as a humbling reminder that even simple things can bring us (and Asian small-clawed otters) immense joy.
The heart-warming scenes unfolded at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in New South Wales, Australia, which is part of a program that aims to protect Asian small-clawed otters. In the wild, these animals face many struggles as human behavior is limiting their range. Confined to smaller habitats, they’re also more at risk from poachers who hunt them illegally for their coveted fur.
The Asian small-clawed otters at the zoo are protected from these threats, leaving them free to find joy in the simple things like food and a heckin’ big stick of bamboo. The enchanting video captured by keeper Amy Sturrock shows the animals descend on the hidden bamboo branch like a fog of curiosity. While some of the older otters had more perfunctory plans for the foliage, it seems the younger members’ need to just go nuts and shake whatever they could get their jaws on got in the way.
“Who would have thought a bamboo branch would be so fun to play with,” wrote the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in a caption on their YouTube channel. “The Otter family were all over the branch that keepers [provide] to the group for enrichment. Mum Jafar was keen to use the bamboo for nesting material whereas the youngsters in the family were far more keen to play tug-o-war with it!”
The Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s YouTube channel is a treasure trove of novelty animal videos, including debuts of their newborns and educational talks. Sometimes, however, it’s better to kick back and bask in the enchanting simplicity of a bunch of otters losing it over a stick.