The animal family at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher has expanded by four: Home to four Asian small-clawed otters, “Otters on the Edge” had a soft opening in December and will be officially ready for even more visitors beginning in January.
“Otters on the Edge”
The aquarium’s newest residents are a family of four: Asta (the mom), Oscar (the dad), Triton (the daughter) and Ray (the son). While the aquarium was previously closed during Stay at Home Executive Orders due to COVID-19, the staff was hard at work building the otters’ new home and slowly introducing the otters to their new environment. The renovation of an existing area in the Fresh Water Conservatory created the approximately 3,000-square-foot space the otters now call home. The exhibit features streams, waterfalls, a log slide and an enclosed pool. Visitors can watch the charming animals through five viewing windows. There’s also a crawl space, perfect for small children to explore, where parents can snap a photo.
The design of the exhibit is focused on the health and well-being of this vulnerable species. In addition to interactive water elements, it includes space for separate family groups that are designed for when the otters grow their family and to allow the animals to freely move between the two sides, and behind-the-scenes care areas. The introduction of the species to the aquarium’s care will allow staff to share the critical conservation story of these animals.
COVID-19 Animal Care
2020 was a unique and challenging year for most people, and it was no different for the team at the aquarium. While many of us were home caring for our own families, the aquarium was caring for theirs. Despite closing its doors to the public in mid-March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, aquarium staff continued to provide around-the-clock care for thousands of animals.
Essential aquarium staff were split into two teams that worked alternate schedules to make sure all the animals were taken care of, as well as to assist with maintenance of the aquarium. These team members quickly adapted to new safety protocols like social distancing and more frequent disinfection in order to provide animal care seven days a week. Other staffers began working from home to help with ongoing efforts critical to the aquarium’s operations.
Like many of us, some staff members learned new ways to continue conducting their normal responsibilities from home, such as producing educational videos and other resources for the aquarium’s website and social media platforms.
New Safety Measures and Exhibit Upgrades
Before the aquarium reopened to the public in mid-September, aquarium staff worked diligently to implement a variety of health protections intended to keep visitors safe and healthy, ranging from new and safer operating and ticketing procedures to new animal habitats.
In addition to “Otters on the Edge,” guests can visit Maverick, a rescued bald eagle, in his new home in the aquarium’s outdoor garden. The natural area and decking were built especially for Maverick’s abilities and feature low perches and a stream where he likes to bathe.
Due to reduced capacity and demand for tickets, all visitors (including guests and members) must reserve a specific date and arrival time prior to their aquarium visit.