Enrichment for the Otters

by: Megan Gregory, Public Relations Aide at Newport Aquarium

Have you ever been to a zoo or aquarium and noticed something odd in the exhibit? Something that looks like it belongs to a child, like a small slide or Easter Eggs? These weren’t thrown in by accident, these are enrichment tools! These items are placed in the exhibit to stimulate animals both physically and psychologically.

Newport Aquarium is fortunate to have several animals who participate in enrichment, most notably our Asian Small Clawed Otters: Neda and Pork Chop.

What is Enrichment?

Enrichment is an important factor when it comes to an animal’s well-being while under professional care. It’s modifying an animal’s environment to stimulate behaviors like those in the wild.

The Association for Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) requires all accredited facilities to participate in enrichment programs. There are several types that are used on the otters to enhance their well-being: scent, food, physical, auditory, and training are just a few.

Why is Enrichment Important?

When an animal is in the wild, they spend a significant amount of time looking for food, building shelters, mating, and defending their space. While under professional care, they don’t need to worry about any of these things – which is where enrichment comes in. Adding this into their routine is a controlled and safe way to help the animals maintain their ability to adapt to change and stress in their environment.

What Items are used for Enrichment?

There are hundreds of options for enrichment tools. It’s something different for them to explore every day. Some days, there will be hay spread out; other days will be giant Legos. With Easter coming up, biologists have been putting Easter eggs with food or rocks inside of them to encourage the otters to pry them open. They’ll also have an Easter basket with rocks and eggs at the bottom, this gets them to forage a trait they’ll do in the wild. Scents like nutmeg, cinnamon, or other strong smells are spread throughout the exhibit, which keeps them intrigued. You’ll also notice that every once in a while, live fish are put into the pond inside the exhibit to encourage them to hunt.

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Each item has to be approved through Newport Aquarium’s Enrichment Committee before they can be used. It has to have a specific reason: What will this accomplish? Is it for brain stimulation? Is it to encourage exercise? It then has to be inspected for safety, making sure there is absolutely no way this can hurt the animal. After it’s been completely approved by the committee, it goes into a rotation. If the same tools are put on exhibit every day, it defeats the purpose of enrichment and the otters could get bored.

What Happens if the Otters Don’t Cooperate?

At Newport Aquarium, we are proud to participate in Animal Choice Programming. This means, for example, if Neda decides she wouldn’t like to participate in training or enrichment, she doesn’t have to. It’s also important to remember: even though we may not be able to notice it, enrichment is happening every day.

Pork Chop loves ice!

Pork Chop loves to crunch ice.

Neda loves to play with Legos. She's chewed these up a bit.

Neda loves to play with Legos. She’s chewed these up a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see our Asian Small Clawed Otters in Canyon Falls. We have Otter Talks at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. where you’ll get to see Pork Chop, who loves to juggle, and Neda, who loves to play with Legos and shred things apart. Plan your next visit, take a look at the Newport Aquarium Events Calendar here.

Kids Get Free Admission to Newport Aquarium during “Summer Family Hours”

The Shark Wall outside the Newport Aquarium. (Source: flickr user hollyannh)

The Shark Wall outside the Newport Aquarium. (Source: flickr user hollyannh)

NEWPORT, Ky.Newport Aquarium is making a splash this summer with the return of its Summer Family Hours promotion, when up to two children (ages 2-12) receive FREE* admission between 4-7 p.m. with the purchase of one full-priced adult ticket.

This family-favorite offer is available for purchase online only, at newportaquarium.com, for visits now through Aug. 31, Sundays through Fridays.

Guests will have even more opportunities to enjoy a million gallons of fun as Newport Aquarium has extended its operating hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. now through Aug. 31. With the earlier opening time, the daily Penguin Parade will begin at 9:15 a.m. during this period.

Dare to Cross the all-new Shark Bridge at Newport Aquarium.

Dare to Cross the all-new Shark Bridge at Newport Aquarium.

There is always more new to see and do at Newport Aquarium and 2015 has proven to be no exception with the addition of three exciting new features:

  • Newport Aquarium dares guests to cross the world’s first and only Shark Bridge, a 75-foot-long rope bridge that hangs just inches above nearly two dozen sharks.
  • Shark Bridge provides guests extraordinary views of the Surrounded by Sharks exhibit’s 385,000-gallon tank, which features seven species of shark, including Newport Aquarium’s newest addition – extremely rare scalloped hammerhead sharks!
  • Newport Aquarium guests can get eye to eye with adorable Asian small-clawed otters, exotic yellow tree monitors and panther chameleon lizards, as well as Thunder the 100-year-old alligator snapping turtle at the all-new Canyon Falls exhibit.

For more information on Newport Aquarium, visit NewportAquarium.com or call toll free 800-406-FISH (3474).

*This special offer cannot be combined with other discounts or coupons.

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Newport Aquarium, voted the No. 1 aquarium in the country by USA Today’s 10Best.com in 2012, has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999. Named a top U.S. aquarium by US City Traveler and Destinations Travel Magazine in 2014, and also by Travel Channel in 2013, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

Find us on: Facebook.com/NewportAquarium | Twitter: @NewportAquarium

One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444
www.newportaquarium.com

Today is International Otter Awareness Day

Zoos and Aquariums around the world are raising awareness today that Otters need our help.

Did you know that otters are an ‘indicator species?’ When we see otter populations thriving, that’s an indication that their surrounding habitat is healthy. Unfortunately, of 13 total otter species, nine are declining across the world. Otters are also a ‘keystone species,’ which means they are the key species that hold their ecosystem together. If otters were to vanish, other species could increase and cause an unbalanced environment. This could ultimately lead to the whole ecosystem crashing.

Otter

How Can You Help?
Some of the most common problems we see in otter habitats are from pollution and disease. We can help these issues by carefully selecting cleaning supplies that are washed down the drain and fertilizers that are used in our yards. These chemicals travel throughout watersheds and harm the foods that otters rely on for survival.

Past and current efforts to protect otters have been mostly successful. While several species remain in real danger, the conservation efforts in place right now give us a very good chance to see these cute creatures surviving well into the future.

Asian Small Clawed Otters
Newport Aquarium’s Canyon Falls exhibit features Asian Small Clawed Otters. In their natural habitat, they are found in the mangrove swamps and wetlands in South East Asia, Indonesia and India. When visiting Newport Aquarium, be sure to stop by Canyon Falls to learn more about these animals through zookeeper training sessions or Otter Talks lead by one of our cast members.

Otter Talks

Daily otter talks help Newport Aquarium guests learn more about Asian Small Clawed Otters

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Newport Aquarium, voted the No. 1 aquarium in the country by USA Today’s 10Best.com in 2012, has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999. Named a top U.S. aquarium by US City Traveler and Destinations Travel Magazine in 2014, and also by Travel Channel in 2013, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

Find us on: Facebook.com/NewportAquarium | Twitter: @NewportAquarium

One Aquarium Way | Newport, KY 41071 | 859-261-7444
www.newportaquarium.com