One day, custom publishing editor Jess DeBold and I met a fun and vivacious lady named Clara. Clara is a yacht club girl from Southern California who loves a good sushi plate and is an avid swimmer. In 2015, Clara traveled from California to New Orleans to make a new home for herself. Her home is now the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas here in New Orleans.
Clara is one of two sea otters who call the aquarium their home.
As part of a newer idea at the aquarium, the sea otter experience is meant to give visitors and animal lovers alike an opportunity to see an animal that lends so much to our environment up close and personal. With this 30-minute behind-the-scenes experience, guests access to the staff and training areas and a closer look at the animals that capture the hearts of many.
We first met the sea otter trainers outside of the enclosure where most guests see Clara and her roommate, Emma. They explained to use both Emma and Clara’s stories as well as explain how much of an asset otters are to the ecosystem. Their tank home is a sight to behold. The 25,000-gallon water enclosure is both a home, playground and training area for the two Southern sea otters. Clara and Emma spend their days playing, practicing and eating – boy do these girls eat. A sea otter diet can add up to almost nine pounds a day of raw fish, clams, mussels and other invertebrates, and they’re fed up to six times a day. I love a good sushi plate, but I think even for me that’s a lot of fish a day. It is all to keep up their fur coats, which we were taught when we went back into the feeding and training area behind their enclosure. Their fur is both an asset and a reason they were on the endangered species list. This large amount of food is used to create body heat to assist their wetsuit-like fur in keeping them warm and protected.
Beside the feedings, we were able to see Clara perform all of her “tricks.” She knew exactly where to go to receive her food, she handed us her toys through the protective glass, spun in circles and even posed for a selfie with the both of us.
Meeting Clara and the loving staff that care for her and Emma was an absolute treat. It is amazing to see an animal up close and to understand their lives and being. I definitely gained a new furry best friend I can’t wait to visit again.
You, too, can visit Clara and Emma at the Audubon Aquarium Thursdays -Sundays at 11:30 a.m. The ticket to the sea otter experience also includes access to the aquarium in its entirety either before or after your scheduled time.
Visit AudubonNatureInstitute.org for more information and to purchase tickets.