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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Seminoles Add Baby Otters to the Tribe
by Daniela Abratt Miami Herald

Meet, well, we’re not sure of their names yet. But the two baby otters are the latest addition to the Seminole Hard Rock.

Unable to decide what to name the pair of otters, the Seminole Indian Tribe is opening up the naming process to the public.

Suggestions will be accepted through June 17 and should be sent to

Upon hearing their foster mom’s voice, the two baby otters dived into the water and made their way to her. Emerging, they circled playfully between her legs.

On Wednesday, the pair of Asian small-clawed otters moved from the home of their trainer, Giselle Hosein, into their new digs at the Okalee Village at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood.

“I’m completely attached to them, but it’s important for their independence and development to start living on their own,” said Hosein, wildlife supervisor for the Okalee Indian Village.

Their new home is an 800-square-foot enclosure which mimics their natural habitat and includes 6,000 gallons of water, river rocks and a night box to hide in.

The village bought the pair at 3 months old from a private breeder in California, paying $7,500, of which $5,000 came from donations and sponsorships, said Jennifer “Ebo” Osceola, the general manager of the village.

Osceola said the Okalee Village’s purpose is to educate people about the lifestyle of the native Seminoles and about wildlife and environmental conservation.

It was important to bring otters to the village because they are one of the tribe’s six clan animals — the others being birds, bears, panthers, snakes and deer.

For the last three months, Hosein has been their primary trainer and caregiver. Her house became their home, as they lived with her and slept in a medium-sized dog crate in her bedroom.

“They have been the most rewarding animal to train,” she said. “The emotional connection you form with them is unlike that of other animals.”

She likened raising them to raising a newborn child, requiring feeding every few hours, cleaning, burping and training.

This species, Aonyx cinerea, is not born knowing how to swim and instead is taught how at about 6 weeks old by the mother.

Hosein began teaching them to swim and hold their heads under water in her bathtub and then slowly moved them to deeper pools.

The otters have a silky coat of 80,000 hairs per square inch of their bodies, rendering their skin essentially waterproof.

“Otter John’’ Jones, the wildlife manager at the Okalee Indian Village, said the sibling otters will be an exciting addition to the varied community of wildlife at the village.

“We can now let people experience them upfront with just glass separating them,” he said.

Otters can sense and understand human emotions and vocal tones, which makes this species, in particular, easiest to breed in captivity.

“They’re very emotional, but they’ll change from happy to angry in one second,” he said. “Working with otters — you will have holes in your body.”

Though they will be brought inside at night, the otters are quite comfortable in their new home, Hosein said. They’ve also been given a number of toys to entertain them.

“On my days off, I’ll still come in and say hi to them,” she said. “My kids are spoiled.”

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