Summer, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific's newest otter, will miss the aquarium's Sea Otter Summer program, Saturday through Aug. 31. Instead, Charlie and Brook, two not-quite-year-old otters, will be the center of attention for the next few months. Besides watching these two in action, visitors can learn about otters through programs and hands-on exhibits.
Among the interesting facts they'll learn is that otters are one of the few mammals that use tools. Beyond using rocks to crack clamshells, these curious creatures can take nuts off bolts and open doors. "I've seen them scale 6-foot walls, graffiti acrylic walls with sharp shells, move 100-pound rocks and even open doors and walk off exhibits," said Mark Ryan, Northern Pacific curator for the aquarium, who says part of his job is to "otter-proof" exhibits.
Other Sea Otter Summer highlights:
* Interactive games in Kid's Cove, including a scale that tells kids how many pounds of raw fish they would eat if they were otters.
* Exhibits illustrating, for example, how otter fur keeps otters warm and dry.
* Sea otter presentations by docents who explain otter behavior.
* Displays charting the history of the California sea otter, from when fur trappers hunted them almost into extinction to the dangers they face today.
"Part of our goal is to educate the public about the plight of these otters, the role they play in our coastal habitat and the importance of saving them from extinction," said museum spokeswoman Michele Nachum.
Sea Otter Summer at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, Shoreline Drive and Aquarium Way, Long Beach. Saturday through Aug. 31. Open daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. $14.95; seniors, $11.95; children 3 to 11, $7.95. (562) 590-3100, or http://www.aquariumofpacific.org.