Double Olympic gold medal swimming star Rebecca Adlington made a splash as she dived into Doncaster’s Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
The star, who won two golds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, dropped in at the award-winning visitor attraction to open its new giant otter reserve.
Fans scrambled to catch a glimpse of the star as she unveiled a new home for two endangered female giant otters on Tuesday.
She said: “I would like to thank the YWP for asking me along to officially open the reserve. It was great to see the otters, Mora and Alexandra, close up and to get to feed them. I really hope the initiative helps save this wonderful species.”
The otters, both from a zoo in Germany, now have the run of a sprawling reserve with a deep lake.
Giant otters can swim 100 metres in 30 seconds – while Rebecca’s freestyle personal best for 200m was 1 m 56 seconds in 2008.
The reserve has been designed to resemble the otters’ natural wild river bank and wetlands habitat with sand and gravel banks around the water’s edge and raised areas so they can dry off and dig their dens.
Park director Cheryl Williams said: “We were delighted to welcome Rebecca to the park to open our new otter reserve and announce a new initiative to help giant 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 hope to inspire our visitors to help us help them.”
Rebecca’s appearance signals the start of a bumper Easter holiday period of fun at the park.
It will be new polar bear Nobby’s first Easter in his new home and seeing him with the other three bears, Victor, Pixel and Nissan, is expected to be high on visitors’ wish lists.
Nobby has already formed a close friendship with fellow two-year-old Nissan and visitors have been mesmerised watching them play, swim and dive.