Visitors who have already seen penguins waddling toward the glass, touched the slimy-mushroom feel of stingrays’ wings and watched jellyfish change colors before their eyes can now see three otters who can hold their breath for up to eight minutes.
Angie Hyde, director of Ppublic relations at The Living Planet Aquarium, said the aquarium focuses on three different ecosystems: Utah freshwater, salt water and South American species fresh water.
The otter exhibit opened this month and will add to the aquarium’s Utah freshwater collection. The exhibit is a permanent addition to the aquarium.
Otters are native to Utah, but, beginning in the 1800s, their population decreased due to settlers capturing them and their habitat changing.
The aquarium educates guests about the differences between sea otters and river otters through information beside the exhibit and daily presentations.
Holland Banks, an education presenter for the aquarium, said the otters featured at the aquarium are North American river otters, which came from the Long Island Aquarium in New York.
The river otters can grow to be 4-feet long and weigh up to 30 pounds. Hyde said the aquarium’s exhibit displays enrichment activities that are viewable by guests. These activities keep the otters active in their natural hunting abilities. Over the last two weeks, these activities have included hiding crawfish and putting strawberries in iceblocks.
The three unnamed otters are brothers. Banks said the aquarium guests will get to participate in a naming contest for them in March.
The otter exhibit has already increased the numbers of guests at the aquarium in the short time it has been up.
“We’re already up 48 percent over last year. . . [the otters] really brought in a lot more people,” Hyde said.
Brittany Holladay has a membership at the aquarium and comes at least once a month with her son. The otters have been a hit with them.
“We have come three times within the last two weeks,” Holladay said, “I think it is definitely an attraction for kids. ”
Hyde said the aquarium will close in October and move to a new location in Draper. The new location will be twice the current aquarium’s size and will be off I-15 and 12300 South. She said it will be easier for tourists to locate. The move is expected to take six months.
Holladay said moving the aquarium to Draper will negatively affect her number of future visits.
“We probably won’t come as often, unfortunately,” Holladay said “We live in this area so it is really convenient for us where it is now.”
The aquarium is currently located at 725 E. 10600 South and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults, $8 for students and $7 for children ages 3-17. Children 2 and under are free. The aquarium also offers a variety of individual yearly memberships which start at $16 for children and $20 for adults.