Showing posts tagged as "sea otter"
"Are you coming to visit me today?" Rescued Otter 649—who went on exhibit last week with companion Gidget—definitely has a curious streak. You can watch the pair relax in our “spa” right now!
By Jim Covel, Director of Guest Experience & Interpretation
David and Lucile Packard intended the Monterey Bay Aquarium to be a gift to the community. However, I’m not sure even the Packards would have envisioned the reach and significance of that gift today. The Aquarium recently released a report detailing some of the indicators of our contribution to the community, including:
- Adding over $385 million to the local economy each year
- Educating 2.1-million school children that have visited the Aquarium free of charge over the past 29 years, plus 20,000 teachers that have participated in free professional development workshops to help bring marine science alive in the classroom
- Inviting 700,000 guests to the Aquarium free of charge since 2002 through our annual “Community Week” and special programs with community organizations and local libraries
- Employing over 500 full- and part-time staff members
Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation
Beyond the impact on humans, we could also consider our work with animals, with over more than 650 injured or orphaned sea otters that have come to the Aquarium; or the dozens of hatchling or injured shorebirds and seabirds that have come our way.
These metrics would certainly be one way to describe how extensive this Aquarium gift has become to the community. However, I also see this gift reflected in the smiles, the inquisitive looks on the thousands of faces—young and old alike—that we greet each day. Perhaps the real meaning of the Aquarium is written on those faces. A generation has grown up in the Aquarium and now brings their children to marvel at the marine life that enchanted their parents. Over 52 million visitors know more about the ocean—and care more—by virtue of their exposure to our exhibits and programs.
Volunteers: We Couldn’t Do It Without Them
While the Packard family certainly deserves credit for launching the Aquarium, a multitude of others have contributed to our enduring success. Over 5,000 volunteers have contributed hundreds of thousands of hours over the past 30 years. Over 60,000 member households, along with donors and sponsors at all levels help underwrite our education and conservation programs. Since that original gift in 1984, a growing community has formed to support the Aquarium’s mission to inspire conservation of the oceans. That community of ocean stewards now stretches across multiple generations, and may ultimately be the greatest and most enduring gift of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
If you are reading this, you are most likely part of that community that connects with the Aquarium. You are part of that gift that David and Lucile Packard set in motion in 1984, and your interest in taking care of our oceans is a gift in itself. Thank you for being a part of our growing success. Thank you for ensuring the Monterey Bay Aquarium remains an enduring gift for future generations.
A few more southern sea otters along Cannery Row are sporting new flipper tags thanks to researchers and veterinarians at the Aquarium and partner organizations. The tagging is part of a long-term study of sea otter health. The unique color combinations of the tags enable staff and volunteers to monitor the otters from shore. By observing individual otters over long periods, we gain insights into their lives and what might be slowing their recovery along the central California coast. Our Sea Otter Alliance partners include the U.S. Geological Survey, University of California Santa Cruz and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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!