At eight months old, Gismo, Pepper and Peanut scurried from their cages and into their new home for the first time at OdySea Aquarium.
One by one they scratched themselves against a white towel and roamed freely around their habitat checking out everything they could – the rocky structures resembling a river bank, a large pool of water, and us, the news crew, filming them during a behind-the-scenes tour.
As they move, Jessica Peranteu, the director of animal care and education at OdySea, and her team watch Gismo, Pepper and Peanut’s every move.
“The things we’re looking for is what you’re seeing her do right now,” she said, while holding Pepper, an Asian small-clawed otter. “Just eating, checking us out, and being interactive with us and each other, appropriate socialization. Those are all great indicators that these guys are thriving in their new home.”
Jessica and her team have raised the otters since they were pups and weaned off their mother. She refers to herself as a step-parent, which makes them her step-children.
“One of the most important things we do as animal care specialists is develop a relationship with these animals so that they know that no matter what we do, [how] we’re interacting with them, it’s always going to be positive and very strong and full of fun,” she said.
A team member pours ice cubes into their food dish – a toy and cool treat all in one – while another member feeds them bite-sized fish chunks. Each otter takes turns digging through the ice, sliding through it, and at times participating in an impromptu karaoke session.
Otters have over a dozen different vocal sounds, each with their own meaning. One could be a warning, while another might be a playful sound or calling for a friend to come over.
“We have a tremendous responsibility to take of these animals and we do that on a daily basis and we take that to heart,” said Gregg Charbeneau, general manager of the aquarium.
The otters will be on display at OdySea Aquarium, which is located near Butterfly Wonderland off the Loop 101 and Via De Ventura exit. An official start date for the aquarium has not been announced yet, but should happen “soon,” according to Charbeneau.
Visit www.odyseaaquarium.com for more information on the aquarium, including admission and lifetime memberships.