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South Carolina Aquarium Welcomes New River Otters

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The South Carolina Aquarium today announced the addition of two North American river otters to their downtown facility. These young otters came to the Aquarium through a Species Survival Plan (SSP) program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

In 2019, the animal care team decided to explore the possibility of adding two new family members to their senior otter duo, Ace and Stono. As incredibly social animals, it was determined that an injection of youth, vibrancy, and companionship would be vital to the welfare of Ace and Stono as they reach their twilight years.

Aquarium staff approached the river otter SSP to formally submit their request for new otters.

“The SSP provides breeding and transfer recommendations for all otters living at AZA member zoos and aquariums, determining placement based on each animal’s genetics and best fit,” Annemarie Ferrie, Aquarium animal behaviorist, said.

Nearly a year later, in September 2020, the SSP found a match! Two young river otters from Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan were ready to be placed. It was determined that the Aquarium and its senior otter duo were the perfect fit for these brothers based on their ages, personalities, and welfare needs.

The new, yet-to-be named otters were transported by Ferrie and Aquarium veterinarian, Dr. Lauren Michaels, this past January. Ferrie and Dr. Michaels spent time with staff at the Potter Park Zoo, learning more about the otters’ personalities and preferences before bringing them home to Charleston. To prevent possible transmission of disease, the new otters were kept in quarantine for 30 days. This period allowed Ferrie ample time to learn their personalities and habits as she planned for the next step: introducing all of the otters.

These introductions will be ongoing through the spring, as Aquarium staff will help to foster and build the relationships between Ace and Stono and the young otters. Ace and Stono (18-and-17-years-old respectively) have long surpassed the lifespan of a wild otter (7-12 years) and are within the average lifespan range of river otters under human care. The addition of the new otters, who just recently turned 1-year-old, will ensure that neither Ace nor Stono will be without social support when one passes.

“The timing was right for Ace and Stono to meet new otters while they are still active and curious,” Ferrie said. “The new otters will add a lot of playful energy to the Aquarium’s river otter habitat! Eventually, age will catch up with Ace and Stono, and they will pass on. An otter that is used to companionship may experience depression. With that in mind, we decided that it was in Ace and Stono’s best welfare interests to welcome these new otters to provide continued socialization through their senior years, as well as to support the river otter SSP.”

While all of the otters get to know each other better, there will be opportunities for guests to see different groups of two to four individuals on exhibit. The public will be asked to help vote on the new otters’ names in the coming days through the Aquarium’s Facebook page.

For more information, visit the Aquarium blog.

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