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Curious Facts About Animals You NEVER THOUGHT You’d Find At Denver’s Downtown Aquarium

The Downtown Aquarium in Denver is a must see if you’re visiting the city and love sea life, and wildlife in general. There are over 500 species that include not only fish but also reptiles, amphibians, birds and even mammals!

Housing over 1 million gallons of water, you surely expect to see a lot of fish. However, there are other resident animals that you are less likely to find at an aquarium and who they call “Ambassadors.” Here are some of the most interesting non-fish species you’ll see during your visit:

Otter-tastic!

The otters at the Downtown Aquarium are part of the North American Wilderness exhibit. Three of them were rescued from different circumstances. Olive was brought from Florida when it approached a person at a gas station in Tampa.  It was temporarily kept at Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife before the aquarium decided to take him in. They initially named it Oliver thinking it was male only to discover months later that it was female. Olivia and Emily have a more tragic story. They were rescued after a man in Alaska moved their mother away without knowing that she had pups living under his porch.   

Even though they’re stories started sadly, they are now healthy, and the aquarium is taking good care of them. You can see them and interact with them at one of their meet and greets.

What do you get when you cross a bear and a cat?

A binturong! Just kidding, never try crossing a bear and a cat. On a more serious note, the binturong, even though it is commonly known as Bearcat, has nothing to do with either –except that they are all classified as carnivores. They are originally from Southeast Asia and live naturally in the forest.  

Binturongs smell like buttered popcorn, and even though they are classified as carnivores, they eat mostly fruits (not buttered popcorn).

A dragon with hair? I thought you only saw that in movies!

That’s because the only haired dragon you’ve probably seen was in the Never-ending Story (I guess you can tell how old I am now…yikes!). The bearded dragon, even though it’s called that, doesn’t actually have one single hair in its body.  The name comes from how the spikes around its neck resemble a beard. This reptile is naturally found only in the desert areas of Australia. However, it is unlikely that any dragon you see in the US comes from there.

It was recently discovered that they produce venom, but it is not dangerous to humans.

As you probably guessed, you can find it at the Desert Exhibit at the Aquarium along with a tarantula and a desert pupfish.

It almost looks like a pet, but it’s actually not

We’re talking about Neema, the serval. This beautiful African wild cat is another one of the ambassador animals living in the aquarium.

Servals are naturally found in sub-Saharan Africa. They prefer to live in areas where water is not scarce, such as well-watered savanna, long-grass environments, and near rivers.

Servals have one of the highest hunt success rates in the animal kingdom. What does that mean? Well, it means that 50 percent of the time, they catch what they hunt.

These cats use echolocation (like bats or dolphins) to aid their hunting and they can hear their pray even underground.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word serval comes from French and Portuguese, and it means “deer-like wolf.” I’m wondering if the scientists that first described this animal thought it looked like a wolf that resembled a dear …

Even though they look small enough to be a pet -I mean, they are smaller than a Great Dane! This is not a good idea. They are not domesticated animals, they are meant to be in the wild and they behave like so.  The Big Cat Rescue explains more clearly why a serval should never be kept as a pet.

The prickly resident is one popular gal.

Zuri is an African crested porcupine and a visitor’s favorite at the aquarium’s meet and greets.

Porcupines are rodents (like rats) and this is the largest one in Africa

Their bodies are covered in quills that can be up to 14 inches long! And not, they cannot shoot their quills at will.  

However, the quills ARE covered in scales that give them a hook-like effect which can make it very painful to remove. They can injure lions, leopards and hyenas and anything and anyone they feel threatened by, so you probably don’t want to be locked with one of these prickly creatures and having to call a Locksmith Denver!

Porcupine quills are seen as lucky charms by many Africans.

A tiger in an aquarium is not nearly as odd as four tigers in an aquarium, wouldn’t you say?

A yet somehow, the Denver Downtown Aquarium has them! Their names are Heran, Marah, Besar and Jalan and they are part of the Rainforest Exhibit.

Sumatran tigers are critically endangered; there are only about 400-600 estimated tigers left in the wild. The two main reasons for this are illegal trade and habitat loss.

These tigers live only in Sumatra, an Indonesian island located off the Malaysian Peninsula. 

In case the majestic appearance of the tigers is not enough to impress you, here are some hard numbers:

They are the smallest of all the tiger sub-species (there are 6) and yet they measure 85- 100 inches and can weigh between 165 and 310 lb.!

The bite of a tiger has the force of 1000 lb., they can jump 33 feet from a sitting position, and their roar can be heard for 2 miles; that means you could hear it halfway to the Botanic Gardens.

While in Colorado, remember to check out Aspen!

…and we’re not talking about the ski destination; we are talking about the two-toed sloth at the Aquarium. Named after the beautiful town of Aspen, this little one is one of the visitors’ favorite meet and greet hosts. They even queue for hours to get to see it whenever the aquarium sets up a sloth meet and greet event.

That alone should hint you to the fact that this is no ordinary sloth, but here is something that will show you she’s even cuter and utterly lovable: Aspen once helped a man propose to his girlfriend!

Some unique characteristics of sloths are their toes, which have adapted to live almost permanently on tree branches, so much so, that they practically can’t walk. However, they are excellent swimmers.

Because they spend so much time upside down, their hair grows differently to all the other mammals. In their natural habitat, sloth hair is colonized by algae, giving them a sort of green glow, which helps them in their natural habitat which is forests and lowlands of Central and South America.  

Finally, since we are talking about an aquarium, we had to include at list one sea creature.

The smartest creature currently living in Downtown Denver Aquarium is the Giant Pacific Octopus, its name is Moose. On top of being smart, octopuses have other unique characteristics that make them really interesting.

They can change the color and texture of their skin in different circumstances, such as when they’re hunting or when they feel threatened. They can make themselves virtually invisible by mimicking their surrounding on their skin.

The Giant Pacific Octopus can weigh up to 100 lb. and each arm has 200 suckers that can taste individually. That is like having 200 tongues!

These amazing animals are part of the ambassador program at Denver Downtown Aquarium and they help create awareness on conservation and animal welfare issues.

So if you are in town, why not pay a visit and see the wonders of the sea and more! Check out their Facebook page or Instagram feed to keep up to date with the latest events.