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Detroit Zoo expands river otters' aquatic center

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
The center has tripled in size from 680 to 2,500-square-feet and increased from 5,900 to 9,000 gallons of water.

The Detroit Zoo has nearly tripled the size of the otter aquatic habitat and is currently welcoming visitors, the zoo announced on Friday. 

The renovated and expanded Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat was originally built in 1997 and is home to four otters. After a donation from the Edward Mardigian Family Foundation, the center has tripled in size from 680 to 2,500-square-feet and increased from 5,900 to 9,000 gallons of water. 

The renovation includes a new rustic interior of the handcrafted log-cabin building, with exposed raw wood and large windows indoors. The new outdoor oasis includes a sandy beach, trees and a flowing stream added to their previously existing outdoor waterfall and waterslide. 

"Floor-to-ceiling acrylic windows provide visitors with dramatic views of the animals exploring their habitat, and underwater viewing remains for even the tiniest of guests to get nose-to-nose with these charismatic creatures," according to a written release from the zoo. 

The space is home to Sparky, 3, his parents Lucius, 11, and Whisker, 14, and a 16-year-old female, Storm. 

“It’s important that we provide animals with habitats that are naturalistic and expansive and that ensure they are thriving and not just surviving,” said Scott Carter, Detroit Zoological Society chief life sciences officer. “The otters have more room to roam – and swim – and visitors have more viewing options.”

srahal@detroitnews.com