A Japanese marine park is offering visitors a rare chance to literally “shake hands” with their resident Asian Small-clawed Otters through specially designed portholes in the exhibit's glass walls.

Keikyu Aburatsubo Marine Park in Kanagawa, southwest of Tokyo, knows visitors would like to get up close and personal with the creatures. Asian Small-clawed Otters (Aonyx cinerea) are the world's smallest species of otter, averaging only about three feet long with their tails making up about a third of that length.

Their remarkably dexterous paws are, in contrast to other otter species, only partially webbed and their claws are short, dull and peg-like. These attributes have allowed Keikyu Aburatsubo Marine Park to institute an innovative, intimate and interactive program they call “Otter Finger Touch, Fish Catch.”  Catchy, huh?

From July 13th through September 13th of 2013, groups of up to 10 park visitors will be admitted to a specially prepared part of the otter exhibit, and are then given instructions on how to do the mammalian meet & greet.

Basically, people attract the otters to a small porthole in the exhibit's glass wall by dipping their finger in Wakasagi Smelt extract. The otter pokes its paw through the porthole to snatch what it expects to be a smelt but instead grabs the visitor's fishy finger. Yep, some serious hand-washing is in order once you've been glad-handed by an otter!

Keikyu Aburatsubo Marine Park's “Otter Finger Touch, Fish Catch” program is open daily from 11:50am on weekdays and from 12:40pm on weekends and holidays.

Admission is 500 yen (about $5) and reservations can be made by phoning the Park directly. Due to the popularity of the program, you really “otter” call before visiting. (via Colocal and Kawausosu)