DUBAI // While their efforts may not quite be up to Vincent Van Gogh’s standards, a group of otters in Dubai are showing a surprising degree of artistic talent.
As part of a new attraction at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo in Dubai Mall, the aquatic animals have been taught to grab a brush in their front paws and paint colours on an easel.
The four male Asian small-clawed otters named Cato, Tiny, Bitoy and Diego will be painting live for visitors until December 30.
The Great Otter Art Exhibition will include interactive presentations by aquatic and marine experts.
Visitors will be able to participate by choosing the colours the otters use in their paintings.
There will also be an art corner where children will be encouraged to create their own works, while an onsite gallery will display all of the otters’ paintings and people will have the opportunity to buy them as souvenirs.
Teaching the otters painting skills is not just about creating art, it is also part of their enrichment training, giving them stimulus to cope with being in captivity.
The otters have also been provided a new playground area within the centre.
Maitha Al Dossari, chief operating officer of the mall’s owner, Emaar Retail, said: “Otters are among the favourite species of the underwater zoo’s visitors.
“With their adorable features and playful personality, it’s easy to understand their popularity.
“As they are active, clever and eager to learn, our qualified trainers have taught them new behaviours that they’ve welcomed with enthusiasm.
“We hope our visitors will enjoy getting to know them better and that they will be impressed by their artistic skills.”
But the attraction has not been welcomed by some animal rights campaigners.
“Why not bring these animals to their natural habitat rather than bringing them to our habitat?” asked Montserrat Martin, founder of Friends of Animals Dubai, which was set up six years ago.
The Asian small-clawed otter is the smallest otter species in the world, weighing less than 5 kilograms.
They live in mangrove swamps and the freshwater wetlands of India, China, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Their paws are a distinctive feature and allow them a high degree of manual dexterity.