Otters in wintertime at the Detroit Zoo

- Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean there's nothing to do at the zoo. many of the animals thrive in this weather and many others have some very warm homes here.

VIDEO: Detroit Zoo Director Ron Kagan joins us on The Nine to show us some winter-loving animals and give us a preview of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, which is opening in April.

First, we take a look at two otters out and about, Storm and Sparky. Sparky was born at the zoo a couple years ago and Storm was rescued in 2002 years ago after he was stuck in a mud bank in Lake Michigan after a storm. There are two other otters at the Detroit Zoo, Lucius and Whisker. Whisker was also rescued in 2009 after a family found her under a house in Washington.

The Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat was designed so that visitors can view the otters at eye level as they swim. This naturalistic environment features a 5,900-gallon pool with a waterfall and waterslide, which the otters can often be seen using.

Once abundant in U.S. and Canadian rivers, lakes and coastal areas, river otter populations have suffered significant declines as a result of fur trapping, water pollution, habitat destruction, pesticides and other threats. Today, otters can be found in parts of Canada, the Northwest, the upper Great Lakes area, New England and Atlantic and Gulf Coast states. The North American river otter is a carnivore and eats things such as fish, turtles, crabs, birds, frogs and insects. On average, it lives to be 12 years old.

Polk Penguin Conservation Center

The Polk Penguin Conservation Center is opening April 18. It will be the most extraordinary conservation center for penguins in the world, Kagan says, and will redefine 'state of the art' for penguin habitats, just as the zoo's Penguinarium did in 1968.

The facility will feature a 326,000 gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area where visitors will be able to watch penguins from above and below.

The exterior has been designed to look like a tabular iceberg, complete with a crevasse and waterfall and will feature a dramatic 4-D entrance that will make visitors feel as if they are crossing the Drake Passage.

One of the most dramatic features of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center promises to be a chilled, 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area where visitors will be able to watch penguins as they explore their habitat and deep-dive - something that is otherwise impossible to see, even in the wild.

For more information, visit www.detroitzoo.org


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