Mansfield Olympic Gold swimmer Rebecca Adlington made a big splash when she opened the new Giant Otter reserve at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
Becky, who won two gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, unveiled the new home for two endangered female Giant Otters as part of a project to help save the species.
She said: “It was great to see Mora and Alexandra close up and to get to feed them.
“I really hope the initiative helps save this wonderful species.“
Giant Otters have been subject to poaching for their velvety pelt and habitat degradation in their native South America, and their numbers have been reduced to fewer than 5,000.
Mora, 2, and Alexandra, 3, who both came from a zoo in Germany, now have run of a 2835 square metre reserve and 2.5 metre deep lake.
Their reserve has been designed to resemble their natural wild habitat with sand and gravel banks around the water’s edge and raised areas so they can dry off and also dig their own dens in dry ground.
Rebecca did the official opening on Tuesday, March 22, to support the work of the Yorkshire Wildlife Foundation.
The project will improve awareness of the Giant Otters and the need for conservation, and will create local jobs as 30 oxbow lakes and river channels will be constantly monitored and other areas surveyed.
The new otter reserve will help visitors understand the species and their fight for survival.
Cheryl Williams, director of the wildlife park, said: “It was a delight to welcome Rebecca to the park to open our new otter reserve and announce a new initiative to help Giants Otters in the wild through the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Foundation.
“We have put a lot of work into creating a safe and stimulating home for these beautiful animals who are sadly under threat and we hope to inspire our visitors to help us help them.”