"Wild About Otters features six African spotted-necked otters (including two young pups) and four Asian small-clawed otters in exhibits that represent their native lake and river habitats. Both species are sleek, curious and very active. Visitors are likely to see an entertaining range of behaviors, from elaborate water play to ambush games.
The $3.6 million special exhibition, which is scheduled to continue into 2010, shows how wild otters - just like the aquarium's ever-popular sea otters and like people around the world - need clean water to thrive and survive. ...
Visitors to Wild About Otters will meet one family and one pair of African spotted-necked otters - Denny and Neema and their two pups (Kazana and Ajabu) and Kipenzi and Kamili - as well as two sets of Asian small-clawed otter brothers: Satu and Dua, and Tiga and Empat ("one," "two" "three" and "four" in the Malay language).
The aquarium acquired the adult otters as part of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan program (SSP), a cooperative effort among AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums to ensure the survival of threatened and endangered wildlife species through breeding programs, research, public education, reintroduction and field projects.
Visitors will quickly learn personal details about the lives of the ten freshwater otters via interactive graphic panels at the live exhibits. Each panel tells the otters' personal stories through caretaker's journals, video and still images, touchable models and other displays.
While Asian small-clawed otters are more common at American zoos and aquariums, they're always visitor favorites. Wild About Otters features two sets of brothers - 4 and 5 years old, respectively - that are on loan from the Singapore Zoo.
"I wanted a bachelor group because of their energy level and amazing social behavior," Jeffries said. "These boys are active, kinetic and very vocal."
One large and colorful gallery of interactive displays introduces visitors to all 13 species of otters found throughout the world - from the giant otter of South America to the feisty North American river otter - and the characteristics unique to each species. Highlights include a special mirror that lets visitors see themselves as a hairy-nosed otter; a life-sized model of and audio clips of sounds made by a giant otter; a crawl-through tangle of mangrove roots, and video clips showing the difference between skill-building and play behaviors in North American river otters.
Other live exhibits in Wild About Otters explore African lake and Asian river habitats teeming with life, from feathery water plants and ferns, to slender vine snakes, exotic frogs and a rainbow of tropical freshwater fishes, many of which will be familiar to home aquarists - including cichlids, bettas, tetras, catfish, rasboras and gouramis.
One sure favorite will be the archerfish exhibit. These angular silver and black striped fish spit water to dislodge unwary prey from trees and plants above the water's surface - sometimes scoring a hit at distances up to four feet away! This exhibit is designed so visitors can watch this remarkable behavior.
Another highlight: the exhibit of Asian vine snakes, where sleek, bright green snakes live in trees but eat fish that they capture by plunging their heads into water. This exhibit, too, is designed so visitors can watch them hunt.
In a Discovery Art Room, visitors can create detailed scrapbooks as souvenirs of their Wild About Otters experience using stamps that depict images of freshwater otters and other animals that share their habitats, like hippos, crocodiles and egrets. A live exhibit features exotic Asian frogs, such as the Vietnamese giant tree frog, Bornean horned frog, Chinese gliding frog, White's tree frog or Vietnamese mossy frog.
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