Showing posts tagged as "sea otter"
Having a hard time getting through this Halloween hump day? We’re here for you. You can make it!
Why are we so happy? It’s the 40th anniversary of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the landmark 1972 conservation law that helps sea otters, polar bears, walruses, and manatees – as well as the ocean ecosystems that support them.
In the spirit of the election season, you recently cast more than 800 votes for your favorite Aquarium animal on Facebook. No debate or recount required: the overwhelming winner was…the sea otter!
Did you know that we source our plush sea otters from one of the last remaining U.S. manufacturers, the Stuffington Bear Factory in Phoenix? Our staff recently visited the factory to see just how they’re made—by hand!
It’s Sea Otter Awareness Week! How will you celebrate?
Mmm, breakfast! This year marks the 10th year anniversary of Sea Otter Awareness Week, Sept. 23-29, to help inspire conservation of these beloved marine mammals. Includes films, lectures and other special activities. How will you celebrate?
Counting California’s iconic sea otters
For the past 30 years, a team of scientists, volunteers and pilots has gathered to conduct an annual survey to answer one critical question: How many sea otters are there in California?
The census, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, is an opportunity to assess the progress of efforts to recover a population that was hunted to near extinction by fur traders.
Although hunting was banned more than a century ago and sea otters are today a protected species, the population continues to grow at a sluggish rate.
Federal listing in 1977 as a threatened species prompted the annual sea otter census along its entire range in California. Pups and adults are counted by teams on land, and a companion aerial survey helps calibrate the count (and potentially spot animals offshore, beyond sight of land-based census-takers).
A slow road back
Over the years, the population has advanced and declined. But one fact is clear: The southern sea otter population is not growing at a healthy rate. On average, 10% of the population is found dead each year. Annual mortalities include a growing number of sick, injured and stranded pups that are brought to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for care.
The 2012 census shows a slight increase in sea otters above 2010 count. (Poor weather conditions prevented a 2011 survey.) But the population is smaller than it was in 2007, when it reached the highest level recorded since the census began in 1982. Overall numbers remain well below the figure that would move sea otters off the endangered species list.
Scientists are concerned that mortalities include large numbers of breeding-age females, and the high rate of infectious disease across the population. Decades of intensive study show that the causes are complex. The solutions remain elusive.
So what’s a sea otter lover to do?
Actions that matter
In addition to supporting more research, and funding to pay for that research, sea otters need political assistance. The science indicates that there are problems with the health of our coastal waters, where these top predators live. Because sea otters eat many of the seafood items we enjoy, solving the threats they face can benefit our own health.
California taxpayers can support more research through a voluntary income tax check-off that’s already raised significant and much-needed funds. At the Monterey Bay Aquarium we’re playing our part, too. Through our rescue and rehabilitation work, we’re identifying the challenges sea otters face in the wild — through analysis of their diet, their vulnerability to boat strikes and their interaction with fisheries. Our exhibit sea otters serve as surrogates to raise stranded pups for return to the wild. We compare survival rates for surrogate-reared pups with wild-raised pups, and the health of otter populations in relatively pristine waters with those near populated coastal regions.
In Sacramento and Washington D.C., our policy team advocates for legislation to protect sea otter habitat, to allow otters to return to their original range — including waters off southern California — and to ensure there’s funding for research needed to recover the population.
We can do this vital work because of the support of our members, donors and visitors. Thank you for supporting sea otter health, the health of our coastal ecosystems and a future with healthy oceans.
(All photos ©Jim Capwell)
What’s for lunch? Did you know that we rescue and rehabilitate threatened southern sea otters from all over the California coast? To date more than 500 have come to us for care.
“Super Mom” Sea Otter, Joy, Dies
The Aquarium is sad to announce the death of Joy, its “Super Mom” who raised a record number of stranded sea otter pups, many of which were returned to the wild, where they’re raising pups of their own.
Joy, who was 14 years old, was humanely euthanized on August 1 in the Aquarium’s Animal Health Lab, because of failing health as a result of the infirmities of age.
The precocious sea otter was a keystone of the surrogacy program of the Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation program. During her years at the Aquarium Joy raised 16 pups – more than any other surrogate in our history. She raised three pups on exhibit, helping prepare them for life at other U.S. aquariums. Joy did all this despite several medical setbacks during her years here.
“She was a ‘super mom’ for us – easily the most prolific of all our surrogate female otters,” said Karl Mayer, animal care coordinator with the sea otter program. His team also relied on Joy to serve as a companion to adult females it rescued because of illness or injuries.
On exhibit Joy was easy to identify with her blonde head, as well as her calm and maternal way with other animals. Her favorite toy was a large red ball she would roll on top of and sink in the water to release tidbits of food hidden inside. She enjoyed roughhousing with other otters, said Chris DeAngelo, the Aquarium’s associate curator of marine mammals.
“Joy was definitely the feistiest otter,” DeAngelo said. “She was quick to let you know when you crossed a line.” Joy would show her displeasure with her caretakers by screeching loudly if she thought they weren’t feeding her quickly enough, or if she otherwise didn’t like what they were doing.”
“From a medical perspective, she’s been a real fighter through some serious problems,” said Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Mike Murray. “She has shown a cat-like tendency to survive, and must have had at least nine lives.”
Joy was found stranded on Twin Lakes Beach in Santa Cruz in August 1998 as a five-day-old pup. She released herself during an ocean swim with an Aquarium staff member in December 1998. (At the time Aquarium staff would swim with pups to teach them foraging skills and acclimate them to the ocean. That practice has been discontinued in favor of female otters like Joy raising pups for release.)
Joy remained in the wild for nearly three years. Unfortunately, during that time, she interacted with kayakers and divers, which wasn’t safe for them or for Joy, so she was brought back to the Aquarium and became a permanent resident.
Joy was always willing to play with her exhibit mates as well as toys, which endeared her to Aquarium guests. As with all exhibit animals raised here, her name comes from John Steinbeck’s writings – in her case, a character from In Dubious Battle.
The Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation program has been studying and trying to save the threatened southern sea otter since 1984 with the support of its research, exhibit and policy teams, and the backing of donors and members. To date, we’ve rescued nearly 600 ill and injured otters and returned many back to the wild. The surrogate program continues to raise and release stranded pups, and places non-releasable animals on exhibit in Monterey and at other accredited aquariums across North America.
The research team plays a key role in field studies of sea otters in California, Alaska and Russia. We also works on behalf of policies at the state and federal level that will advance the recovery of sea otter populations.
Can you see us? It’s not always easy! With the great summer weather, boat traffic is up. Just this week a threatened southern sea otter was found dead on our coast. Autopsy showed severe blunt force trauma consistent with a boat strike. Be extra-vigilant and give sea otters a brake—it’s the law!