We’ve all heard about swimming with dolphins, but what about swimming with tiny little otters? This unique experience is offered at Barn Hill Preserve in Ethel, Louisiana.
Barn Hill Preserve takes its visitors on a guided tour where you’ll meet sloths, red kangaroos, and African servals, followed by a chance to swim with otters. Now that’s a great way to escape the day-to-day stress of life!
Keep scrolling to see adorable pictures of people enjoying the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of swimming with sweet little otters at Barn Hill Preserve.
Barn Hill Preserve is a federally licensed facility who puts the wellbeing of their animals above all else.
The goal is to make the tour enjoyable for both the otters and the humans. That’s why there is only one otter swim scheduled per day, and only a few per week. In other words, only a lucky few get the chance to actually swim with these adorable Asian otters.
All participants must be at least 16 years old and sign a waiver before being allowed to enjoy the experience.
Prior to hoping in the water with the otters, visitors change their clothing and attend an orientation. The whole thing takes about an hour, while swim time with the otters is limited to around 35 minutes.
“Guests enter the pool, and the otters are introduced for playtime. If they want to play with enrichment toys on the deck, that’s their choice. Our otters are never forced to do anything, the entire experience is completely positive,” John “Gabe” Ligon, the President/CEO of Barn Hill Preserve told Bored Panda in an interview.
People love the chance to swim with these adorable guys and gals.
The Asian small-clawed otter is the smallest otter species found around the world. Their natural habitat is in mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands throughout southern China, southern India, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
They live in extended family groups with only the alpha pair breeding. The whole family pitches in to raise the young, with offspring from previous years helping to raise the pups.
Sadly, a variety of factors have landed the Asian small-clawed otter on the IUCN Red List for Vulnerable species. Everything from hunting to pollution and habitat loss are negatively impacting them.
Life at Barn Hill Preserve is like something out of a dream for these little otters.
“A typical day for an Asian otter at the preserve includes waking up to the smell of a fish and shrimp breakfast. Taking a morning swim, grooming one another to dry off, taking a mid-day nap, chasing insects that fly into the exhibit, and taking more naps.”
If an otter doesn’t feel like being social during swim time, there’s a behind the scenes privacy house that they can escape to at any time.
Helping otters isn’t all that they do around here.
“We also provide a home for animals, including a large group of free-flying macaws,” Ligon explained. “These macaws have lifespans of up to 80 years and possess intelligence that compares with human toddlers.”
By helping the birds learn how to fly, the preserve gives them a chance to enjoy 80+ years living out in the vast Louisiana countryside.
“We hope that seeing these birds fly in a flock, will inspire people to help protect their wild cousins, who are rapidly losing land to human development.”
Some of the animals at the preserve are owner surrendered, while others are planned acquisitions from Federally licensed facilities.
The preserve is equally dedicated to educating the community; they offer free educational programs to students at local schools.
They also work with their local St. Jude hospital to provide patients with a “fun-filled day of no worries” where they can play with the animals.
In addition, they’ve traveled all the way to Australia to help rescue flying foxes that were orphaned as a result of the record heatwave in Cairns.
“While in Australia, we also presented a donation check from fundraising to the Tree Kangaroo Rescue and Conservation Centre for their amazing work with tree kangaroos.”
It’s clear to see how passionate this preserve is about the work they do for the animals.
“We challenge the public to get active in what’s going on in the environment, the world around them, so we can ensure that wild places for wildlife are here for generations to come.”