Olive and Otto

These two otters earned “all As” from Zoo visitors for their active, agile, and adorable antics.
  • 1950s
  • 1960s

At the end of the 1950s, two North American river otters moved into their new home in the Children’s Zoo and made quite a splash in the neighborhood! The pair seemed to be constantly in motion. In the pool, they swam right side-up, upside-down, and on their sides, twisting and turning with the greatest of ease.

Yet, they never seemed too busy to answer a friendly “hello” from a Zoo visitor. When they heard a human voice, the pair would stop whatever they were doing, stand on their hind legs, and wriggle their faces at the greeter. It became known as their trademark “otter salute.”

They had formerly been part of a private zoo, and keepers in San Diego guessed that this close association with people was the reason for their unusual friendliness. Otters are known to be intelligent, and Olive and Otto were no exception. They quickly learned that the otter salute, given to the right person, would result in an immediate extra bit of mackerel. Their frequent targets were the keepers, who found it hard to ignore Olive and Otto’s cunning ways.

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