540: That’s the staggering number of animals that have entered the Aquarium’s live-stranding program since our Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program started in 1984.
540: The number (and temporary name) of the newest pup to grace our sea otter exhibit. At just over two months of age, and weighing 11.4 pounds, she’s the youngest and smallest pup to meet the public in our two-story sea otter exhibit.
For reasons unknown, the little pup washed up on a Cayucos beach in California on April 28. Volunteers from the Marine Mammal Center in Morro Bay responded to a stranding call, along with a sea otter biologist from the California Department of Fish and Game. The pup was clearly in need of urgent care and the Aquarium was alerted that she would be transported to Monterey.
On arrival, the pup, a female, was assessed by SORAC staff, who looking at her size, weight and other indicators, concluded that she was about a day old. At just a little over two pounds (1kg) she was around half the weight of a typical newborn pup. Over the following weeks, pup 540 responded well to care in our intensive care unit and surprised our staff with her resilience.
Though still considered small for her age, she is otherwise healthy and passing all the developmental milestones right on schedule. The Aquarium determined it would be best to raise her for placement in a zoo or aquarium, rather than release her to the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed, and declared that 540 was a non-releasable animal. This afforded us the special opportunity to place her with Joy on our sea otter exhibit during public hours.
Meet the family
Our five resident female sea otters all play an active role in the SORAC program, as companions or surrogates to stranded animals. Joy, who herself stranded as a two-week old pup in 1998, has been our most successful surrogate to-date, and 540 will be her 15th young charge.
Joy also has experience of caring for a pup in our exhibit; in the summer of 2010, she mentored pup 502, before she transferred to her permanent home at Georgia Aquarium.
Joy and pup 540 met behind-the-scenes the morning of June 22. Our staff ensured that 540 was eating well and bonded with Joy before transferring her to exhibit on the evening of June 28. The pair will be closely monitored to ensure that all goes smoothly.
We can’t guarantee how long 540 will be on exhibit with Joy, so if you can’t come and visit in person, check them out on our Otter Cam. We’ll post updates here, so be sure to check that 540 is still on exhibit if you want to see her!