By William Croyle
Yes, it's cold out. But you have something to look forward to this spring. A $4.5 million expansion of the Newport Aquarium is on schedule to be completed by Memorial Day weekend, and it will be a new home for some animals.
Between seven and 10 Asian small-clawed river otters will be the featured exhibit in the new addition, which will open the last weekend of May. The freshwater creatures are the size of a large house cat and are part of the Species Survival Program, which ensures their survival.
Brent Clark (left), an ironworker, and Dave Speas, a glazier, install glass on the 21,200 square-foot expansion to the Newport Aquarium.
(patrick reddy photo)
"They are very endangered, very rare and very cute," said Jill Isaacs, spokeswoman for the aquarium. "They are very active mammals that will add a whole new dimension to the aquarium."
The new otter exhibit will be part of the 21,200-square-foot multilevel expansion that began six months ago. It will boost the overall size of the aquarium by 20 percent and increase exhibit space by 40 percent.
The expansion also means four full-time jobs and a few more part-time jobs will be added. About 180 are currently employed by the aquarium, which is home to 6,000 animals.
The otters are coming from another aquarium or zoo that is a member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. The Newport Aquarium received accreditation in March from the AZA, which represents more than 200 aquariums and zoos. Isaacs would not name the current home of the otters at this time, but said being able to be part of the Species Survival Program is one of the benefits of being an AZA member.
The construction of the addition is being done by GBBN Architecture and Messer Construction, and is being paid for with private funds.
Holiday at the aquarium
Santa's Water Wonderland begins this weekend at the Newport Aquarium. Along with festive music and lights throughout the aquarium every day through Jan. 4, Santa Claus will interact underwater with sharks, fish and sea turtles and provide presentations every half-hour from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dates of the presentations are Dec. 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24.
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