Little Sea Otter pup #502 arrived at the Monterey Bay Aquarium after being discovered weak, sick and alone on a California beach. After four weeks of antibiotics delivered via frozen clams and a behind the scenes introduction to a surrogate mother named Joy, #502 went on exhibit to the public last week. She got her temporary numerical name because she was the 502nd Sea Otter rescued by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's SORAC program since its founding in 1984. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing nature of #502's medical treatment, she cannot be released back into the wild because she won't have the necessary wild-otter skills. Eventually she may be introduced to another orphan turned education animal, the not-to-be-missed Kit, who we met earlier in the summer.
Read the whole story below the fold.
RESCUED PUP JOINS SEA OTTER EXHIBITAT MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM
Visitors can see pup and companion Joy in person, or online via live Otter Cam
A rescued 16-week-old southern sea otter pup has joined the sea otter exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The pup was introduced onto exhibit on July 28 with an adult sea otter companion, Joy, and is only the second pup ever in this public setting at the aquarium.
Because of ongoing treatment the pup is receiving for a medical condition, aquarium staff needed a period of several days’ observation before determining that the pair could remain on exhibit for the immediate future.
The pup is currently known as 502; this indicates the number of stranded sea otters brought into the aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program since 1984. She was introduced to Joy behind-the-scenes on July 20. After a bond was established and secured, the two were moved into the exhibit.
“Joy is 12 years old and has raised 12 pups – more than any other surrogate in our program,” says Chris DeAngelo, associate curator of mammals. “Her calm presence and nurturing maternal instincts should be just what this young animal needs to move forward.” DeAngelo said the pup will remain on exhibit as long as she and her staff continue to see signs that she is adapting well to her new home and responding to ongoing treatment.
The pup came to the aquarium on June 30 as a 12-week-old animal, after she was found stranded on Morro Strand State Beach, San Luis Obispo County. On arrival, she was examined by aquarium staff veterinarian Dr. Mike Murray, who determined she was dehydrated and malnourished. Sea otter mothers usually wean their pups around six to seven months of age. Aquarium staff believes this pup was prematurely weaned from her mother in the wild. Dr. Murray also suspected acanthocephalan peritonitis, a condition caused by eating sand crabs infested with thorny-headed worms. Sand crabs are a likely prey item for a young animal that strands near the sandy seafloor habitat. In young or weakened animals, the worms can migrate through the intestinal wall and cause an often fatal infection.
Tests confirmed peritonitis and she is receiving ongoing care, including antibiotics and a worming treatment delivered via frozen clam cubes. Because of her medical condition, she faces a long period of treatment and care.
According to Andrew Johnson, manager of the SORAC program, the pup is not a candidate for return to the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has authorized the aquarium to manage the pup in its sea otter exhibit.
“Our past experience with this condition has shown that the success rate in the wild for animals with her history is extremely poor,” Johnson said. “Together with a number of other factors, this has led to our recommendation that she be deemed non-releasable.”
The aquarium will continue to provide her with medical care and training, and will seek out a good long-term home when she is fully recovered.
At a later date, Joy and pup 502 may be joined on exhibit by other sea otters – including Kit, who earlier this year was the first pup ever to be raised in the exhibit. Kit is currently behind the scenes, serving as a companion to young animals scheduled for release to the wild.
Rescue and rehabilitation of stranded pups and adults is a small part of the aquarium’s extensive work to help in the recovery of California’s threatened sea otter population. Details can be found on the new Sea Otter Research and Conservation web pages at www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/sorac.aspx.