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Baby River Otter Gets Swimming Lessons from Mom

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When you watch an otter swim, it looks so effortless that you might assume they, like sharks, are born knowing how to swim. That is not the case. Otters have to be taught how to glide through the water, and it's a vigorous process that occurs when they are newborns.

The Oregon Zoo has a new star in the making, and his name is Molalla, or Mo, as he is affectionately known, and he is in the process of learning this task. The nine-week-old baby otter was born blind and is just starting to learn the ropes of otter life. Part of his daily lessons includes getting swimming lessons from his mom, Tilly, and it's attracting crowds to watch the baby adapt to his environment.

Tilly hauls Mo around their enclosure, grabbing him by the scruff of his neck and diving into the water with him in tow. "This might look a little brutal to us. It's kind of scary for us to watch, but it's natural for them," said Becca Van Beek, otter keeper at the zoo. Baby otters float, and Mo starts to dog-paddle in the water.

Tilly appears to be taking the task of mommy very seriously, making the swimming lessons a daily two-hour ritual as she nudges her little guy along, teaching him to paddle and navigate the water. She was brought to the zoo as an orphan in 2009 but takes to being a mother quite naturally, according to zookeepers.

Mo only weighed about the amount of a handful of jellybeans when he was born, but he has grown quickly and is "developing quite the personality," said Van Beek.

Molalla is the first river otter to be born at the Oregon Zoo and is the namesake of Oregon's famous Mollala River.

[Related: Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo to Mate Within Days]

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