Many of Seaquest Interactive Aquarium’s guests reside under hundreds of gallons of water and would be more inclined to give you a splash rather than anything resembling a cuddle.
But the Las Vegas aquarium has three kinds of new young guests that might surprise you with just that.
Seaquest’s small-clawed river otter pups are 5 months old and have been on display for just a few weeks. The otters are native to southeast Asia and like to live in calm, shallow water. This puts them at risk, explains Wendie Welch, a team lead at Seaquest.
“They can sometimes be a nuisance because they like to live in the same areas where people like to live.”
That makes them a vulnerable status animal.
“Having them here helps us let people know what we can do to help mitigate the habitat loss they experience in the wild,” Welch said.
Guests are invited to meet the otters — named PB and J — and hand feed them small fish.
“We try to give four feedings a day,” Welch said. “But them being babies, we kind of have to work around their schedule.”
During the interaction, guests will sit at the floor of the enclosure and hold out handfuls of food while the otters climb over them and snatch food from their hands.
The coatimundis have been on exhibit since December but have only recently been available for guest interaction.
“The coatis are just as young as some of our other animals — we have a lot of babies here,” Welch said. The two coatis, Lilo and Stitch, are the same age as the otters, but with decidedly different personalities.
Their instinctive curiosity drives them to climb up guests legs, into their clothing and, often, onto their heads.
The South American animals are part of the raccoon family. They use their small, dexterous hands to eagerly snatch dry pellets and chunks of banana out of guests’ hands.
Guests also can take part in the animals’ enrichment by playing with balls and toys that the coatis can chase .
“Capybaras are charismatic animals. In the wild, they live in large family groups,” Welch said.
That sociability makes them a great animal for an interactive setting.
The South American animals are the world’s largest rodents. Many guests comment that they look like giant guinea pigs.
The two 6-month-olds, Westley and Buttercup, have been at Seaquest since December. For a short time, the aquarium also is fostering a pair of 6-week-old siblings.
“Guests are welcome to pop in and see them while we have them them here,” Welch said. “You can go in and feed them right out of the palm of your hand.”
An interactive aquarium
The new mammals aren’t the only animals guests are encouraged to touch at Seaquest.
“If you can reach it within reason, you should be able to touch it,” Welch said. “We have rays that you can feed; birds, mammals, reptiles, a tortoise who roams freely around the aquarium.”
Interactions with the animals are included with daily passports, $12.95 for adults and $8.95 for kids.
Most animal feedings require two tokens, which can be purchased for $1-$3 each.
Seaquest Interactive Aquarium opened in December 2016.
Seaquest Interactive Aquarium
Where: Boulevard Mall, 3528 S. Maryland Parkway
When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday
Cost: $8.95 – $12.95