In The Know with Gino: Sunshine Breaks Tradition: Female Otter Joins Beloved Tennessee Aquarium


Sunshine, the Tennessee Aquarium‘s new female North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) in the River Otter Falls exhibit.

CHATTANOOGA, TN – In a heartwarming twist after 31 years, the Tennessee Aquarium is welcoming a delightful addition to one of its most cherished exhibits. Sunshine, a spirited 2-year-old female otter, has broken the long-standing boys-only tradition, marking a significant moment for both the aquarium and its visitors.

Sunshine’s journey to the aquarium began in June when she made the journey from the Little Rock Zoo. Her presence is set to capture the hearts of aquarium-goers as they catch their first glimpse of her during the upcoming Labor Day holiday. Since her arrival, Sunshine has quickly formed a special bond with her caretakers, leaving an indelible mark on everyone she meets.

The otter exhibit, a beloved highlight for Tennessee Aquarium visitors, has always been a crowd favorite. Positioned at the forefront of the aquarium’s attractions, it offers an early introduction to the wonders that lie within.

Dr. Chris Keller, Aquarium Veterinarian, shared insights into the potential impact of Sunshine’s addition. He mentioned that introducing a young otter, especially a female, into the established group is expected to bring about a shift in dynamics among the otters. The otter group, also known as a romp, currently consists of five male members: Hunter, Digger, Benny, Louie, and Maya. Each of these otters has their own unique backstory, having been born in the wild as rescued orphans or relocated due to being nuisance animals. In contrast, Sunshine’s story is distinct, as she was raised in human care.

The genetic value of the male otters at the Tennessee Aquarium holds significance within the larger population of North American River Otters in human care. These otters, with their origins tied to the wild, offer valuable genetic diversity. Consequently, they are considered valuable potential partners for breeding under the guidance of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s North American River Otter Species Survival Plan.

While the prospect of Sunshine becoming a mother is on the horizon, the timeline remains patient. A female North American River Otter’s litter can consist of anywhere from 1 to 4 pups. However, aquarium officials are quick to note that the earliest possibility of Sunshine entering motherhood is still over a year away. This anticipation is due to the natural phenomenon of delayed implantation that female otters undergo, allowing fertilized eggs to halt development for up to a year.

As the Tennessee Aquarium eagerly awaits this new chapter, Sunshine’s exuberance and the playful antics of the entire otter romp continue to be a source of joy and fascination for visitors. With the promise of potential new life and the charming allure of these delightful creatures, the aquarium’s otter exhibit remains a beacon of wonder and education for all ages.

SOURCE: News Channel 9