Ed Beaulieu, vice president of field research and contractor development at Aquascape, Inc. in St. Charles, Illinois, designed and installed an interactive otter pond at Blake’s Exotic Animal Ranch in Florida. This marks Beaulieu’s third animal water feature collaboration with popular YouTuber, Blake Kaldirimoglu, who owns a collection of exotic animals. Previous projects include a capybara/duck pond, and an aviary pond.
Beaulieu designed the otter pond with a 1,500-gallon rainwater harvesting system to replicate a flooded forest, which is the typical habitat of the small-clawed, southeast Asian otter. A shallow, pooling stream connects to a 15’x15’ pond to provide opportunity for the otters to swim and explore. A constructed wetland filter was incorporated to clean and improve water quality for regular animal use. Beaulieu added a short cement wall with a large viewing window on one end of the pond so that visitors can watch the underwater activity of the otters from a custom sunken seating area.
“The challenge of this particular water feature was to create a highly filtrated and interactive environment that engages all sensory functions of the otter,” explains Beaulieu. “Otters are prone to disease when they become bored. They’re climbers as well as swimmers, so a small portion of a fallen tree and logs were added to the stream.”
In addition to the otter pond at Blake’s Exotic Animal Ranch, Beaulieu has designed numerous animal water features including habitats at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Brevard County Zoo in Florida, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, indoor and outdoor turtle ponds across the country, a reptile pond for YouTuber Kenan Harkin in Florida, a mink pond for YouTuber Joe Cotter in Utah, and more.