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Draper Journal

March is birthday month at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

Mar 05, 2019 02:28PM ● By Katherine Weinstein

Two of the North American river otters enjoying the snow at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. (Photo courtesy Shelby Dobson/ Loveland Living Planet Aquarium)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

March is birthday month at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. Visitors are invited to celebrate the birthdays of the otters and a clouded leopard in addition to the aquarium’s five-year anniversary in their current Draper location.   

Caroline Ralston, director of marketing and public relations, said, “We’re very excited! We’re looking forward to seeing people come in and see all kinds of fun decor.” 

Throughout the month of March, guests are invited to participate in scavenger hunts to learn about various animals, their names and birthdays.  

Guests who turn in their completed scavenger hunt sheets are entered in a drawing for a free birthday party at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. The aquarium has long been a popular place for birthday parties. “You can now add an animal encounter to your party,” said Ralston.

The otter brothers turn 9

There will be a ninth-birthday celebration for the three North American river otters — Otis, Oliver and Oscar — on March 5 in the Discover Utah gallery. At 1:30 p.m., keepers will bring out an icy cake made of frozen fish to the otters and guests can join in singing “Happy Birthday.” There will be party hats while supplies last and a giant birthday card to sign.  

The otters have been a popular attraction at the aquarium since they arrived in 2012 from the Long Island Aquarium. Visitors can watch the otters swim, play, eat and nap in their special enclosure which also allows them to spend some time outdoors. Scott Chambers, curator of mammals and birds, noted in an email, “They get along great with each other. The otters are all brothers and act just like it. They roughhouse with each other and chase and wrestle.”

The birthday cake made of fish encased in ice is likely to be a huge hit with the otters. “They love anything food-related,” said Chambers. 

Like many zoos and aquariums, Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is dedicated to animal enrichment, which is meant to improve the animals’ environments and care based on their natural behaviors and instincts. As part of their enrichment, the otters enjoy puzzle feeders which require them to put in a little work and ingenuity in order to get the food reward inside.  

“The biggest challenge in caring for these animals is ensuring that we do everything in our power to ensure they are content,” wrote Chambers. “We are their keepers and it is our job to make sure we enrich them and feed them and give them lots of variety just like it would be in the wild for them.”

A “cake” fit for an “apex predator”

Rhu, the female clouded leopard, will celebrate her fifth birthday on March 14 in a similar fashion to the otters, only her “cake” will suit her carnivorous diet of lean meats. Rhu’s full name is actually Rhubarb in honor of the fact that her birthday coincides with “Pi Day,” the holiday in which people celebrate the mathematical constant “pi” and indulge in lots of pie.

“She’s actually a really playful kitty but still an apex predator,” said Ralston. Clouded leopards are among the smallest of the big cat species and make their home in the forests of Southeast Asia. They have been classified as a vulnerable species due to habitat destruction and poaching.

Rhu and her mate, Koshi, came to the aquarium in 2016 from the Houston Zoo. The clouded leopards are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Program, which oversees the population management of select species within AZA member institutions. It is hoped that one day Rhu and Koshi will produce offspring.  

“Rhu and Koshi just enjoy being around each other and are usually pretty close and curled up somewhere together. They do like to play and chase each other sometimes as well,” noted Chambers. The clouded leopards also enjoy enrichment activities. Like a house cat playing in a grocery bag, Rhu especially likes to play in large burlap sacks. Bushes and feathers are also favorite playthings.  

“She really enjoys time with her keepers,” said Chambers. Both Rhu and Koshi are closely bonded to their human caregivers. Visitors to the aquarium can find the two clouded leopards in the Expedition Asia gallery.

How to plan your own eco-friendly birthday party

In addition to educating visitors about animal species and ecosystems, the aquarium’s educational mission is also to inform guests about how to be good stewards of the planet. The festivities in birthday month provide an opportunity to spread the word about how people can make more eco-friendly choices when they celebrate their own birthdays.   

Balloons, for example, are a source of litter and hazardous to wildlife on both land and sea. There are many creative and festive alternatives to balloons such as banners, bubbles and pinwheels. For party decor and eating utensils, the aquarium will encourage guests to choose items that are reusable, recyclable and biodegradable. Through something as simple as making different choices as a consumer, everyone can help make a positive change in the global ecosystem. 

Aquarium celebrates 5 years in Draper

March 25 marks the anniversary of Loveland Living Planet Aquarium’s grand opening at their current Draper address. There is much to celebrate. In their previous location in Sandy, the aquarium drew approximately 430,000 visitors annually. Established in their new building with its striking architecture and increased space, the aquarium attracted 1 million visitors within the first year.  

The aquarium continues to exceed goals in the number of annual visitors and draws people from all over the Intermountain West. Plans for the aquarium’s expansion will continue to unfold this year with the installation of the Claw outdoor performance space next summer. The construction of a new science learning building is in the works as well.