Webster the Opossum: Aquarium’s new animal ambassador

By on October 26, 2017

Webster the Opossum is the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island’s newest animal ambassador. (Rick Eller, NCARI)

Opossums sometimes get a bad rap with their unusual looks and nighttime antics, but there’s actually a lot to love about these small mammals.

They have the distinction of being North America’s only native marsupial; they can snack on thousands of ticks per week; they very rarely contract rabies due to their low body temperature, and they are even immune to snake venom.

The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island hopes guests will learn this and more with the help of Webster, a juvenile Virginia opossum and the aquarium’s newest animal ambassador.

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Before arriving at the aquarium earlier this year, Webster was orphaned and in the care of a local wildlife rehabilitator, who noticed the opossum was unable to use his hind legs normally.

It was soon discovered that Webster’s hip joints were not properly developed. This condition would prevent him from climbing trees in the wild to search for food, escape predators, and to rest, making a release into his natural habitat unfeasible.

So he came to the aquarium, where he receives needed care, including physical therapy and supplements for his joints. Webster also adds to the aquarium’s diversity, joining the North American river otters as the only mammals currently at the aquarium.

Animal ambassadors like Webster provide visitors with up-close encounters during educational programs at the aquarium. Guests can get a unique introduction to these animals’ adaptations and learn about the vital role each plays in their ecosystem. Ambassadors are not always in view, and live behind the scenes where they receive excellent care from the aquarium’s experts.

Webster was named with the help of the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island’s online community. After Husbandry and Education staff picked three suitable names, those were put to a vote on the aquarium’s Facebook page. More than 475 people voted, with “Webster” earning nearly twice the votes of the other options.

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For more information about the aquarium, visit The N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island.

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