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Local otters Suri and Dari welcome athletes and visitors

July 12,2019
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The official mascots of the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championship - Suri and Dari - stand in front of Nambu University. [YONHAP]
At the entrance to the Athletes’ Village stands a giant pair of otters shaped out of flowers and leaves.

With their cute, giant eyes and pinkish-green skin color, they make an Instagram-worthy photo for visitors to the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, which kicks off today in Gwangju.

Dubbed Suri and Dari, the pair are the official mascots of the FINA World Championships for this year. The World Championships, which celebrate their 18th anniversary this year, have brought hundreds of athletes to Korea, all of whom are vying to snatch one of the event’s 76 gold medals.

Colored blue and orange with their official mascot design, the anthropomorphized animals represent the male and female otters peacefully living in Mount Mudeung in Gwangju and the Yeongsan River, which runs through Gwangju.

Visitors and athletes will be able to spot Suri and Dari throughout the venues in diverse forms, like dolls and key rings at the souvenir shops.

In Korea, the Eurasian otter - the most widely distributed otter species - was designated as natural monument No. 330 by Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration in 1982.

A member of the weasel family, otters are mammals that are widely dispersed across Asia, Europe and Africa. They were listed as an endangered species by the Ministry of Environment in Korea in 1998.

Weighing about 5.8 kilograms to 10 kilograms (13 pounds to 22 pounds), they can reach a length of 130 centimeters (4 feet 3 inches) from nose to tail. Their tail takes up about two-thirds of their long body. This body structure, along with their short legs, makes them excellent swimmers and hunters of fish.

Otters have become friendly figures not just for their cute looks but also because they are more sociable than other members of the weasel family.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]