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The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores invites artists of all ages to express their feelings about river otters in an Otterly Artful art contest.
Entries are due March 21. The art contest is a preface to the annual birthday bash March 26 for Pungo, Neuse and Eno, the Aquarium’s three resident river otters.
The theme, of course, is the Aquarium’s otters or their wild kin. Artists can depict the animals in pen, pencil, crayons, markers, colored pencils, acrylics, oils, watercolors or other media. Art will be judged in three age categories: under 6, ages 7 to 12, and ages 13 and up.
A completed entry form, available on the Aquarium’s website, must accompany artwork. Winners will be announced March 25 and rewarded with an otter prize pack and a $25 Gift Certificate to the Aquarium Gift Shop. Selected artwork will be exhibited during the birthday party events on March 26.
The March 26 activities include special programs at the River Otters exhibit, starring Pungo, Neuse and Neuse serving themselves cake only an otter could love – an ice block embedded with fish, carrots and other favorite treats. Later in the day, kids help open presents for the otters to enjoy. Visitors are invited to sign oversized birthday cards, be creative with otter crafts and enjoy other otter-oriented activities.
Eno’s arrival at the Aquarium as an orphaned kit three years ago this spring inspired the annual party. His older playmates came to the Aquarium as adolescents just before the Aquarium reopened after an expansion in May 2006. The Aquarium named the otters for three North Carolina rivers.
The festivities are the Aquarium’s way of highlighting a bigger cause to celebrate — the conservation success story of river otters in North Carolina. Trapped for their luxurious fur, sensitive to water pollution and crowded out of waterfront habitat by development, the species had disappeared from the mountains by 1930s. Thanks to diligent conservation and reintroduction efforts, otters once again can be found throughout North Carolina, including the Western reaches of the state.