This past Monday, our gibbons welcomed a new (four-footed) arrival to the IPPL sanctuary: Bali is an older male Asian short-clawed otter whom we invited to be a companion for Bubbins, a female otter who was “widowed” this past April when her partner Dua had to be put to sleep. Bali himself lost his mate three months prior to his arrival here, so bringing the two of them together is definitely a win-win solution.

Bali and Bubbins

Bali (left) and Bubbins in their otter house. They were already getting cozy with each other the evening of Bali’s arrival!


Currently, in addition to our 37 gibbons, we also care for three pairs of Asian short-clawed otters. Executive Director Shirley McGreal has always loved how otter couples, like gibbons, have very egalitarian relationships: males are about the same size as females, so if one partner gets cranky, at least it’s a fair fight (a state of affairs that a gorilla or hamadryas baboon female might envy). Also, like most primates, this species has fairly nimble fingers that (as their common name suggests) are not hampered by long claws. And (like gibbons) when they get excited, they get very vocal!

Shirley had been on the lookout for someone to keep Bubbins company. In July, she found out about Bali, a ten-year-old otter living alone at the Columbus Zoo, and, after a flurry of e-mails, the zoo agreed to donate him to IPPL.

Shirley and Bali

IPPL Executive Director Shirley McGreal gets her first peek at Bali in the Delta cargo area of the Charleston airport.


Bali arrived at the Delta cargo area of the Charleston airport in his little red-curtained travel crate, squeaking excitedly. After we drove him to the sanctuary, he was placed inside a small “acclimation cage” within Bubbins’s enclosure. It’s hard to tell in advance whether two animals will hit it off. And Bali had some big shoes to fill: Bubbins’s former mate Dua had been a YouTube sensation for his ability to play the keyboard. (Bali has already achieved some small measure of fame on his own: a local reporter did a nice piece about him for the Summerville Journal Scene.)


Almost immediately, Bali was ready to get out of his “acclimation cage” and get acquainted with Bubbins.


Bubbins quickly came over to investigate. Their reaction on meeting each other was so clearly positive, we released Bali within 10 minutes.

They have been inseparable ever since.

Otter and gibbon cages

Bali’s new home (left) is just opposite Michelle and Louie-Louie’s enclosure. Our gibbons seem to get a kick out of their noisy, playful otter neighbors.



  1. Patrisia Rawlins on August 30, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    What a great story–glad it got posted to Facebook. I absolutely love how you got these two otters together and how happy they must be now! When, today, seeing videos of those teenagers burned with chemical weapons in Syria, it was so nice that my next “vision” is of these otters. God Bless! [and give them a treat for me]