Tears at Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary after sudden death of otter
A joyous event at the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary has been tainted by sadness following the death of an otter.
Resident Asian-short-clawed otter parents Brutus and Summer have produced a healthy litter of cubs, whose first foray into the world beyond their cosy straw-filled holt is expected any day.
But celebrations will be decidedly muted after the sudden death of dad Brutus from a tooth abscess that spread rapidly to his brain.
'There had been no sign of any problem until Brutus came out of his holt for his morning feed and was suddenly very wobbly on his feet,' said displays supervisor Kieran Copeland.
Kieran immediately rushed him to the vets, but Brutus passed away before he could be examined. A post mortem revealed a cracked tooth and behind it, the fatal abscess.
'He must have been in a some discomfort,' added Mr Copeland, 'which makes the fact that he continued to look after those cubs with such dedication and without showing any sign of having a problem, all the more remarkable.'
The centre's dedicated animal care team, some of whom had looked after Brutus for more than three years, were in tears, said general manager Nigel Croasdale.
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Fortunately, although she is now a single parent, Summer has instinctively taken over parental duties for the cubs and is patiently carrying enough food back to the holt to ensure all are kept well fed.
'We've not had cubs here for many years,' said Mr Croasdale. 'Summer only joined Brutus last summer and prior to that he had shared his enclosure with two brothers.
'The births should have been a purely happy event, but it will take the staff here quite a while to recover from the blow of Brutus's death.
'When the cubs emerge and start exploring, which we're certain is going to happen in the next day or so, that will certainly help the healing process.'
The four cubs will remain largely dependent on their mum for two or three months yet, and will take about a year to reach full size.