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Enjoying the New Sea Otter Exhibit

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Volunteering | Mammals

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Hugh

If you haven’t been to the Aquarium of the Pacific in a while this summer may be a good time for a visit. The new and improved otter exhibit is quite stunning to witness in person. It actually gives you the feel of being out on the coast of Central California in the aquatic habitat of Enhydra lutris, the sea otter.

The first time I saw the exhibit after it had been filled with fish and artificial kelp I couldn’t believe how great it looked. And it’s not just the view from the outside of the exhibit that’s been improved. The interior of the exhibit now boasts a state of the art lighting system which incorporates banks of lights that uses a combination of three primary color bulbs to produce a more sunshine-ish glow. The lighting also changes to match the time of day shifting shadow and light to mimic the direction of the sun giving the animals a more natural rhythm to their environment. The deck area has also been improved giving more space for the otters to hang out when they are out of the water and more room for the trainers to interact with the animals.The rock work modification allows more sunlight to enter the exhibit from the skylight. The otters seem to appreciate the change as one of their favorite areas to hang out is now right under the skylight. We usually place a pile of ice there for them to enjoy and its kind of neat to watch them camped out around the ice. Sometimes its seems like they’re actually people watching from their new hangout.

For me and my favorite sea otter, the furball known as Maggie, the increased deck area is neat because it allows us to take a stroll together from where I usually pick her up during a session on the right side of the exhibit over to the waterfall pool on the left side of the exhibit without worrying about causing an otter traffic jam along the way with the other otters and trainers. It also gives me more room to check over the furball during husbandry sessions.

I actually enjoy the new otter exhibit so much that I will occasionally come down to the Aquarium on my days off from volunteering just to hang out outside the exhibit. I especially enjoy being there during the calm of the early morning just after the Aquarium opens to take in the beauty of the sea otters, schools of fish and wavy kelp all interacting together with a backdrop of a waterfall and the changing shadows and colors of the rock work. Its quite inspiring and refreshing to watch and is something that has to be experienced in person. Its definitely worth coming down to Long Beach to see.

Enjoying the New Sea Otter Exhibit
The otters in their favorite hangout, the ice patch underneath the skylight.  | Hugh Ryono
Enjoying the New Sea Otter Exhibit
The added deck space in the exhibit gives the trainers more room to care for the otters. Here mammalogist Caitlin examines Brook the sea otter during a presentation and training session.  | Hugh Ryono

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