Scolding summer days and fuzzy fur coats

Our resident sea otters Agnes and Mojoe aren’t just known for their cute faces, but for having the densest fur in the animal kingdom. It’s ideal for keeping warming in the icy cold waters of their natural habitat in Alaska, but what do they do in during the balmy Danish summer?

A quintessential Danish summer isn’t complete without ice cream cones, summer dresses, sunglasses and trips to the beach. But what do you do when you live in a fur coat you can’t ever take off? Despite the unpredictability of the Danish weather, a summer day whether overcast or sunny, is still a little too warm for a sea otter, and that’s why our keepers make sure the furry creatures are always comfortable and cool.
So how do you cool down a sea otter? With a big ol’ bucket of ice of course!

Unlike most humans, sea otters actually like getting cold feet. In fact, their ice consumption is so high, Den Blå Planet has decked out the otter enclosure with their very own ice-cube machine, so they always have a cold treat at hand. An otter knows nothing better than to laze around in a huge bucket filled with ice cubes, which they rub on their faces, use to cool their fur and to snack on. It’s not only great entertainment (for them and us!), it keeps them cool and hydrated in the summer heat. It takes a whopping 200kg of ice cubes to keep the otters happy, and during their first year at the aquarium, 24 tons of ice was used to keep them cold.

See also: The Big Five on Den Blå Planet, National Aquarium Denmark

Warm temperatures? Oh that’s snow problem

During the summer, the sea otters prefer to take dips in their private pool to keep cool in the heat – a choice I think we all can relate to! The water in the enclosure stays at a chilly 12 degrees, perfect for the Alaskan natives. If the temperature starts to rise, an alarm alerts the keepers who can then adjust the degrees.

Sea otters can’t regulate their body temperatures by themselves, and that’s why it’s so important that they have access to cold water and ice baths so that they can stay cold in the summer months. If otters get exposed to heat, their body temperatures can raise up to dangerous levels in a short time span, which is just as dangerous for otters, as it is for humans. The alarm helps keepers stay vigilant and sure that the water is the right temperature for the animals.

During the summer, the cooling system works overtime, but during the winter we can let the Danish winter do what it does best; keep our otters cool. Last winter water temperatures were all the way down to a freezing 5 degrees, and nobody was happier about it than Agnes and Mojoe.

A chilling flight

It wasn’t your standard economy class experience when the sea otters were shipped from Alaska to Den Blå Planet back in 2014. Otter fur is so dense that all the hair on your head can be compared to a square inch of otter fur. When your winter coat is that thick, a simple fan won’t do, so the whole plane was cooled down to 10 degrees. The otters arrived in Denmark safe and happy after the 12 hour journey, while the keepers were just happy they didn’t get frostbite.