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Spotlight on Opening Night: A day in the life of an otter keeper

Otter AquariumWe are excited to launch the festival at the Aquarium of the Bay on May 29, with a Reception and Premiere of DamNation. We took this opportunity to ask one of the otter handlers to take us behind the scenes to find out more about these adorable creatures.

Animal Care Biologist Bryan Tom’s primary responsibility is the daily husbandry needs and exhibit maintenance of the aquarium’s three North American river otters.

“Our aquarium is unique because we are one of the few facilities that utilize a free-contact training and feeding program with our otters, meaning we spend a lot of time interacting with them without a physical barrier between animal and biologist,” he said.

That allowed for a closer and more trusting relationship between the otter and handler; which made medical inspections, training and procedures much less stressful for the animals, he said.

Mr Tom said the festival’s goals complimented the aquarium’s themes.

“A big part of our focus is to educate our visitors about the importance of conserving the natural habitat of our Aquarium otteranimals,” Mr Tom said.

“The San Francisco Green Film Festival sends the same message – just using a different medium – and we’re happy to do our part to help them tell the story.”

Festival-goers who come to opening night will learn about the diverse marine life and ecosystems of the Bay, Mr Tom said.

“We’re home to more than 200 species and 20,000 animals that can be found in the Bay and along the California coast,” he said.

“It’s a great chance to get to know your underwater neighbors and see a whole new side of San Francisco.”

The Opening Night reception starts at 6pm Thursday, May 29, at Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39, and is followed by the San Francisco premiere of DamNation, a film about our changing attitudes to water and dams. More information and tickets are here.

DamNation was the Winner of the Audience Award at the 2014 SXSW festival, the film’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move through rivers and landscapes altered by dams and the personal stories of people fighting to bring rivers back to their natural state.