Showing posts tagged as "sea otter"
Anchorman Ron Burgundy is SO Wrong About Sea Otters!
In a recent appearance on The Conan O’Brien Show he said that sea otters are “the dumbest animal on Planet Earth.”
He’s so, so wrong – and we think, on reflection, he’ll conclude that, “I immediately regret this decision.”
Won’t you help restore the sea otters’ good name?
Sea otters can’t speak for themselves. (Though you can read their “Open Letter to Anchorman Ron Burgundy” below.)
But you can speak up for them!
Go on Twitter and tweet a challenge to @Will___Ferrell, to Conan O’Brien and to Paramount Pictures: “Anchorman Ron Burgundy is wrong about sea otters! He can visit them at @MontereyAq & learn what they’re REALLY like.”
Here’s what our sea otters have to say
Dear Anchorman Ron Burgundy,
We just learned that you’ve been saying mean things about sea otters.
This week on The Conan O’Brien Show you told the ENTIRE COUNTRY that we’re “the dumbest animal on Planet Earth.” “Boring as hell,” you said. On the bottom rung on your Hierarchy of Animal Positionology.
Here’s what we say:
Boo to you, Ron Burgundy! We stick out our tongues at you!
But — we are generous creatures, and we’re willing to keep an open mind. We don’t believe you’re a hopeless case. (You might — possibly — rank higher than the hermit crab on your own Positionology chart. Maybe.)
We invite you to pay us a visit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium — the center for sea otter conservation and inspiration. Meet us in person, mano a pata. We’re confident you’ll see the error of your ways, and realize how wrongheaded you’ve been about a species that might oh, we don’t know….maybe HOLD THE KEY to saving Planet Earth from the perils of climate change.
At the very least, we’ll crack open a crab or two for you to snack on.
Photos: Anchorman poster courtesy Paramount Pictures. Sea otter © Bill Coggin
Good News For Sea Otters!
California’s sea otter population is a bit larger this year – good news for a threatened species that plays such a vital role in the health of coastal ecosystems.
Our sea otter research team joined university colleagues, and state and federal wildlife officials, in a spring otter count that tallied 2,941 animals from San Mateo County to the Santa Barbara/Ventura county line to the south.
The 2013 figure includes a record number of pups, which helped boost the three-year population average from the 2,792 average just a year ago. That is cause for “cautious optimism,” according to Tim Tinker, a sea otter biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center.
“Certainly, sea otters have made an impressive recovery in California since their rediscovery here in the 1930s,” Tinker says. “But as their numbers expand along California’s coast, they are facing ‘growing pains’ in different locales.”
Those “growing pains” include everything from disease and parasites, to limits on available food, to a rise in the number of sea otters falling victim to shark bites.
For 30 years, the Aquarium’s sea otter research team has been a key player in collaborative efforts to understand why sea otters are recovering so slowly.
They’ve come a long way.
Presumed extinct in California after the fur trade years, a remnant population of some 50 animals was rediscovered in the 1930s with the opening of Highway 1 along the remote Big Sur coast.
In addition to being a magnet for Central Coast visitors, sea otters are considered a keystone species in coastal ecosystems because they prey on invertebrates that, if left unchecked, can decimate kelp and seagrass beds and the vital fish habitat they provide.
Scientists also study sea otters as an indicator of nearshore ecosystem health, since sea otters feed and live near the coast and often are the first predators exposed to pollutants and pathogens that wash into the ocean from land.
Sea otter photo credit: ©Jim Capwell / Divecentral.com
Has it been a rough week? Like this photo if it captures your plans for the weekend!
Even in your most private moments, do you sometimes get the feeling you’re being watched?
Remember Mae? We thought you’d like these great photos by sea otter aquarist Nikki Dinsmore.
You can also learn more about Mae and read our fond recollections.
Memories of Mae
Many Aquarium staff, volunteers and visitors have fond memories of Mae, who died November 17 at age 11—but none more than the team who took care of her during her 11 years on exhibit. Here are some highlights:
Cecelia Azhderian, senior sea otter aquarist:
- Mae had an ornery and feisty personality along with a short fuse, so you only had about two chances to get her to cooperate. Otherwise, she was just done and made it clear she wasn’t happy with you by making direct eye contact and sticking her tongue out.
- She especially loved to take apart puzzle toys that we made for her. The more intricate and complicated the toy, the more interested she was in dismantling it. We were challenged with coming up with new enrichment ideas that would engage her for a long time. The process was mentally stimulating for both of us.
- In quintessential otter style, Mae was quite destructive at times and would exploit any weakness she found in the exhibit. She was the first to dig at a weak spot she found in the cement rockwork, or pull up an edge of a window seal, or find a loose screw somewhere, or stuff toys in a hole that she discovered or dug herself. She used “tools” to do so, such as toys we gave her or shells that she smuggled inside her “pockets” from the back holding areas.
- We joked that Mae would “tag” the exhibit windows using little pieces of rock or shell she hid in her “pockets,” making scratches in n up and down motion that ironically looked like an “M.”
Hannah Ban-Weiss, sea otter aquarist:
- One of my most favorite things about Mae was when she was falling asleep, she would suck on her paw.
Michelle Jeffries, former curator of marine mammals:
- Mae spent most of her time sleeping in the “spa” (the deck entrance to an underwater tunnel). It was like her own room, and she got very grumpy when others tried to squeeze inside. Mae would very determinedly drag the “carwash kelp” into the spa with her, which was quite an effort. She would then wrap herself in the kelp and sleep, with only a tiny part of her dry-fuzzy head poking out of the jumble.
Laura McKinnon, former sea otter aquarist:
- The first time Betty White visited the exhibit, Mae was obsessed with Betty’s blue shoes. She kept wanting to sniff them.
- I will always remember the “look” when you would toss a sinking object into the water and ask her to “get.” Sometimes she wouldn’t feel like retrieving, and would look underwater at the object with only one eye then back at you like, “um, yeah, I’m not going to get that, please give me my shrimp now.”
Mika Yoshida, former sea otter aquarist:
- One of my favorite behaviors to do with Mae was called “frisk,” in which the trainer would ask Mae to stand on her hind paws, with her front paws resting on a rock or the back wall of the exhibit. This allowed the trainer to run her hands up Mae’s back, sides and underneath her arms to check her “pockets.” It was one of the coolest/easiest ways to do a complete body check, although not one that she allowed everyone to do.
- Mae was a true Ice Queen, as she loved to crunch, sleep on, rub on and generally enjoy ice to the fullest!
- Mae was not very good at stunning live crabs, and would sometimes get pinched. That never stopped her from enjoying a good crab, however!
What did Mae look like when she was rescued as a two-day-old sea otter pup near Santa Cruz in 2001? Have a look! She was raised by our Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) team and joined our exhibit a few months later.
Watch Mae, who passed away last weekend, play with sea otter pup Kit. We’ll miss her!
Mae, First Otter to Raise a Pup on Exhibit, Dies
We’re sad to report that Mae, an 11-year-old female sea otter who had been part of our sea otter exhibit since she was eight months old, died over the weekend from a seizure disorder whose cause is still unknown. Her seizures began suddenly just a few days before her death on Saturday afternoon, November 17.
Mae was rescued as a two-day-old pup near Santa Cruz in April 2001, and raised by our Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program team. She joined the sea otter exhibit in December 2001 when it became clear that she was not acquiring the skills she needed to be returned to the wild. She was the first animal we’d added to the exhibit since 1986 – starting a new generation of exhibit animals as our original sea otters reached the end of their lives.
That wasn’t Mae’s only “first” with us. In 2010, she became the first surrogate mother otter to raise an orphaned pup on exhibit at the aquarium. Her pup, Kit, is now living at SeaWorld San Diego. Mae served as a companion animal to several otters as part of the SORAC program.
Her name – that of a truck-stop waitress with a screeching voice in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath – was chosen in another first-ever process. It was selected for her by the public in an online poll.
Mae, nicknamed “Mayhem” by her caretakers, was a vocal and feisty sea otter who would make direct eye contact with and stick her tongue out at trainers when displeased, according to staff who worked with her. She was also an enthusiastic partner in training sessions, said Chris DeAngelo, associate curator of marine mammals.
“Mae definitely knew the most behaviors of any of our otters and was wonderful to teach new behaviors,” Chris said. “She was one of the first animals that new trainers learned to work with because she was very consistent and good with dealing with ‘trainer errors.’ We’ll all miss her terribly.”
Chris and the sea otter staff also called Mae “the monkey” because she would hold objects like ice molds and toys with her tail, leaving her paws open to accept whatever came next. While none of the other adult otters displayed this behavior, it was picked up by some of the pups Mae raised.
Senior Sea Otter Aquarist Cecelia Azhderian appreciated Mae’s playfulness.
“She loved big buckets,” Cecelia said “She could hardly wait for them to be filled with water before she’d get inside, even though she didn’t like the water hose, which she’d attack it if it came too close.”
Our sea otter exhibit is currently closed for renovations and will reopen in mid-March. Exhibit otters Rosa and Abby and are being housed behind the scenes.