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Museum of Discovery and Science Announces Opening of EcoDiscovery Center

The Museum of Discovery and Science in Ft. Lauderdale announces the grand opening of it’s EcoDiscovery Center on November 11, 2011 .

isitors will meet Joey, a North American river otter who can’t swim and has become the star of the new “Otters at Play” exhibit. With their thick layer of fat beneath the skin, dense, oily fur, nose and ears that can be closed under water and webbed feet, river otters are well adapted to the aquatic environment. So why is it that the Museum of Discovery and Science’s newest otter can’t swim?

“Joey, just nine months old, spends his days running around, playing in the waterfall, digging in the grass, sleeping in the sun, and wrestling with two slightly older male otters. He’s very social and loves to play but he won’t swim in the brand new pool,” said Kim Cavendish, Museum President/CEO. “This little guy never learned to swim so he dunks his head in the water and holds onto the bank with his hind feet and tail.”

Joey was rescued when he was very small by a good samaritan who raised him for a few months. The animal lover reluctantly gave him to an otter handler at a wildlife rescue facility who was better equipped to raise him. Luckily, Joey was at the right place at the right time because the handler was fostering two older otters for the Museum and when they moved to South Florida little Joey came along.

Shortly after their arrival Museum staff realized the youngest otter was either afraid of the water or didn’t know how to swim. Staci Stafford, Museum Otter Keeper said, “he would only touch the water with a paw.” Having never encountered such a challenge before, Stafford and Aquarist Paige Roloff, sent out an SOS to otter handlers asking for advice. The response? Teach the little guy how to swim. Apparently baby otters are actually taught to swim by their mothers. So Stafford and Roloff are now “otter moms,” patiently working with Joey on his new venture.

Stafford explained, “First we created a small baby pool for him with steps and offered a little “fish treat” incentive to cross the inch deep water. To just plop a young animal into the water and say “sink or swim” would be traumatic so we do all we can to encourage him. He’s curious and energetic, so those are good signs. But otters, like people, learn at different paces.” So as the days go by Stafford and Roloff increase the water depth in the small pool…inch by inch…so Joey can build up his confidence. Training has been working. Though still hanging on to the edge with his hind legs and tail, Joey now submerges his face and front paws in the otter habitat pool to watch his friends frolicking underwater. Matthew Dumler, Life Science Manager, said “we’re watching and waiting hoping it won’t be long before the little guy takes the plunge.”

You can follow Joey on Twittter at OtterTalks.

Kim L. Cavendish, Museum of Discovery and Science President/CEO said, “We are hoping Joey will learn to swim before the November 11, 2011 grand opening of the Museum’s major expansion.” The new 34,000-sq.-ft. EcoDiscovery Center, which more than doubles the Museum’s current exhibit and program space, offers more dynamic hands-on explorations.

Visitors can take a ride on the Everglades Airboat Adventure, experience hurricane force winds in the Storm Center, dig for fossils alongside a giant prehistoric megalodon, get close to a confrontation between a saber-toothed cat and an Imperial mammoth, learn about protecting and conserving the Everglades and Florida’s natural resources, and follow the natural path water takes through Florida. Visitors can explore the physical principles of water while enjoying the playful antics of North American river otters in their two-story indoor/outdoor habitat. The new wing also features the Mangurian Foundation Lifelong Learning Center with four labs and the 100-seat Keller Science Theater with comfortable seating and technical features to support lectures, exciting science demonstrations, and presentations by community partners.

Museum of Discovery and Science
401 SW 2nd Street, Ft Lauderdale, FL 33312
(954) 467-6637

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