It's Play Time: Otters at Mote Aquarium

There they go again, with the incessant playing, snacking, and entertaining. Down the slide, stop for a quick bite of carrot, then back to playing, perhaps a dip in the pool or a tag of a buddy and the chase is on. They are unbelievably adorable and I cannot take my eyes off them. Sounds like a trip to the park with my two little ones, but these playmates are of a different breed – we're at Mote Aquarium to check out the new otter exhibit. Watching the little critters is like watching my own two kids together. They play. They fight, pulling on each other with no seeable reason other than to annoy each other. They snack constantly. And they play, play, play.

“Playful” is a word I hear from pretty much every visitor as they cast their eyes on these three endearing friends. At approximately ten and a half months old, they are essentially toddlers. And like human toddlers, their days are spent snacking and playing.

It is impossible not to smile at their antics as they explore their new bi-level exhibit, sliding down the waterslide, doing flips in the water, or rolling in the sand, getting blissfully filthy and starting it all over. As one staff member told me, “they play 24/7.” And it's mighty entertaining to watch their contagiously joyful nature.

The three North American river otters, females Pippi and Jane and male Huck, are the stars of Mote Aquarium's new watershed exhibit located in the marine mammal center portion of the Aquarium, the same place where you'll find the sea turtles and manatees. Pippi is the cute female with darker fur, Jane is the cute female with bigger eyes, and Huck is the cute slightly-larger male.

Individually abandoned as babies and rescued and raised by humans, they are not good candidates to release to the wild, so it's fortunate that Mote Aquarium has been able to provide this home for them. It gives them a safe haven and us the opportunity to see them up close and personal, which they guarantee with their inquisitive nature. They seem just as curious about us as we are about them and the performances are nonstop. Jane, Pippi, and Huck are always “on,” always performing, always, as my 4-year-old daughter describes them, “chasable.” I'd love to jump in there and play along.

“Otters and Their Waters: Exploring a Florida Ecosystem” is open during normal hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Mote Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway. The exhibit is located at Mote's Ann and Alfred Goldstein Marine Mammal Research and Rehabilitation Center, which is also home to Hugh and Buffett, Mote's resident manatees. Not only a showing of adorable creatures, the exhibit also demonstrates the vital watershed environment, which is important to the health of people, otters, their prey and many animals from land to the coastal oceans.