A family of orangutans and a romp of river otters are the furriest of friends, according to zookeepers in Belgium who purposefully arranged for the primates’ and mustelids’ habitats to intersect.
Photos of these curious bedfellows went viral after Pairi Daiza, a privately owned zoo and botanical garden located in Belgium’s province of Hainaut, recently posted them on Facebook.
“The presence of a family of Asian small-clawed otters in [the orangutans’] territories is not a coincidence,” Mathieu Goedefroy, Pairi Daiza spokesperson, told Live Science in an email. Orangutans (genus Pongo) share 97% of their DNA with humans, and like their Homo sapiens’ cousins, orangutans “must be entertained, occupied, challenged and kept busy mentally, emotionally and physically at all times,” Goedefroy said.
So, the zoo chose to let the otter family (Amblonyx cinereus) live in the river that runs through the orangutan habitat.
“The otters really enjoy getting out of the water on the orangutan island to go and play with their big, furry friends,” Goedefroy said. “It makes life more fun and interesting for both animal species, which makes it a very successful experiment.”
The unlikely animal friends even warmed the heart of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who tweeted: “Oh my god. My two favourite animals, together, having story time. And if you know this is photoshopped, don’t tell me, because I don’t want to know.”