Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium’s Sea Otter Pup Makes a Friend

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The male Sea Otter pup being cared for at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is now four months old. The fuzzy pup, named Hardy, was rescued after concerned members of the public found him swimming alone in open water off northern Vancouver Island back in June.

Since his rescue, staff and volunteers have spent shifts feeding, bathing and grooming the pup. Hardy recently began honing his swimming and diving techniques, and he can’t seem to get enough of practicing his new skills!

Since his arrival, the aquarium has anticipated an appropriate time to introduce the orphan to the rest of the Otters housed at the facility. Hardy was recently introduced to Vancouver Aquarium’s 13-year-old rescued female Sea Otter, Tanu, and she just may prove to be a valuable foster mom for the young pup.

Kristi Heffron, Senior Marine Mammal Trainer, shared, “It took Hardy a moment or two to realize that Tanu had joined him in the Finning Habitat. Then, Tanu went to Hardy and put him on her chest, just like a mother would do to her pup. After a little while, we saw them both swimming, grooming, and eating independently. They’re quite comfortable together.”

ZooBorns introduced the Otter pup to readers back in June when he was first rescued. At that time, Lindsaye Akhurst, Manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, which is presented by Port Metro Vancouver, made a statement concerning the rescue: “Sea Otters have high energetic needs; after birth they spend about six months with mom, nursing, being groomed by her and learning to forage and be a Sea Otter, so this little guy is still a fully dependent pup. He would not survive on his own, and we’re providing him with the care he needs right now.”

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4_Tanu-holding-Hardy-1200x616Photo Credits: Vancouver Aquarium

According to the report provided to the Rescue Centre, boaters collected the Sea Otter pup after it approached and then followed their boat while vocalizing. There were no adult Sea Otters in sight. Once in Port Hardy, officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) arranged for the transfer to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Although well intentioned, both DFO officials and Rescue Centre personnel say the distressed animal should have been reported first rather than taken from the ocean. “Once they’re removed from the wild it’s impossible to determine if the mother is alive and if they could have been reunited, or if bringing him in was the appropriate action,” said Akhurst.

Paul Cottrell, Marine Mammals Coordinator, Pacific Region, DFO, reminds the public that touching or capturing wild marine mammals is illegal. Decisions about the pup’s future will be made by DFO.

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Aquarium Breeds Endangered Frogs to Boost Wild Population

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The Vancouver Aquarium is helping one of the world’s most at-risk amphibians by raising and releasing hundreds of healthy Northern Leopard Frog tadpoles into the wilds of British Columbia, Canada. 

The release is part of the Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team’s efforts to restore a species that was once widespread across Canada. Beginning in the 1970s, millions of frogs died, leaving just one small group of Northern Leopard Frogs remaining in western Canada. The Rocky Mountain population of this species is listed as Endangered in Canada.

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2017 Northern Leopard Frog Release_Mark Yuen for Vancouver Aquarium_IMG_1376Photo Credit: Mark Yuen for Vancouver Aquarium

Vancouver Aquarium was the first aquarium to breed the Frogs in captivity as an assurance population in case the wild population completely collapsed. A collaboration with researchers at the University of Ottawa utilizes hormones to induce spawning and mating behavior in the captive frogs.

Each year, tadpoles and young frogs bred at the aquarium are released back into the wild in suitable habitats to reestablish the species. By rearing the young in captivity, a process called “headstarting,” the odds of survival to adulthood are increased. Over the last five years, the aquarium has released thousands of Northern Leopard Frog tadpoles.

Headstarting programs are emerging as an important tool for rebuilding wild animal populations, and zoos and aquariums are perfectly suited for such projects. Zoos and aquariums have the expertise and facilities to care for and breed amphibians such as these frogs.

“We’re beginning to see the impact of our efforts to repopulate B.C.’s most at-risk amphibian, and have found animals that have survived the winter and are being located again year after release,” said Kris Rossing, senior biologist at Vancouver Aquarium. “Frogs are an important indicator species of environmental health. Overall, we’ve seen our conservation efforts make a difference, as we collectively move the needle a little bit every year through this vital program.”

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Tiny Rescued Sea Otter Pup Growing Stronger

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On June 25, the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre admitted a tiny male Sea Otter pup as a patient. The fuzzy-faced otter pup, now estimated to be about two months old, was found swimming alone in open water off northern Vancouver Island and brought to the Rescue Centre by a concerned citizen.

You first met the pup on ZooBorns when he was just a few weeks old. Since his arrival at the Rescue Centre, the tiny otter has received 24-hour care from staff and volunteers who feed, bathe and groom him, just as his mother would in the wild. Baby Sea Otters cannot survive on their own, and depend on their mothers for the first six months of life.

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Care and rehabilitation of rescued marine mammals is very labor-intensive, and it takes a whole team of dedicated staff and volunteers to care for this tiny pup.

The little Otter continues to gain weight steadily and has been growing stronger and more active. He now weighs nearly nine pounds and is growing quickly. He is still nursing from the bottle, and drinks 25 percent of his body weight per day in a special Otter pup formula made by the animal care team.  This week, the baby Otter was offered his first solid food – five grams of clams, which he gobbled up enthusiastically.  He eats every three hours, 24 hours a day.

The care team says the pup is curious and enjoys exploring. He pup is now grooming himself a little bit, but still needs help from the care team to remain clean and fluffy.  They also report that the pup is learning to dive and can dive to the bottom of his swim tub to retrieve toys.

Sea Otters are and Endangered species. They were hunted for their fur until the early 20th century, when their population fell to just a few thousand individuals in a tiny portion of their former range. Bans on hunting and other conservation measures have helped, but Sea Otters are still threatened by fishing net entanglement and oil spills.

 


Vancouver Aquarium Cares for Rescued Sea Otter Pup

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A tiny male Sea Otter pup, estimated to be just two to four weeks old, is now in 24-hour care at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, after concerned members of the public found it swimming alone in open water off northern Vancouver Island on Sunday.

Although the pup appears healthy, he requires care night and day from the Rescue Centre team, just as he would from his mother. Staff and volunteers are spending shifts feeding, bathing and grooming the newborn pup, which has not yet been named.

“Sea Otters have high energetic needs; after birth they spend about six months with mom, nursing, being groomed by her and learning to forage and be a Sea Otter, so this little guy is still a fully dependent pup. He would not survive on his own, and we’re providing him with the care he needs right now,” said Lindsaye Akhurst, Manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, which is presented by Port Metro Vancouver.

According to the report provided to the Rescue Centre, boaters collected the Sea Otter pup after it approached and then followed their boat while vocalizing. There were no adult Sea Otters in sight. Once in Port Hardy, officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) arranged for the transfer to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Although well intentioned, both DFO officials and Rescue Centre personnel say the distressed animal should have been reported first rather than taken from the ocean. “Once they’re removed from the wild it’s impossible to determine if the mother is alive and if they could have been reunited, or if bringing him in was the appropriate action,” said Akhurst.

Paul Cottrell, Marine Mammals Coordinator, Pacific Region, DFO, reminds the public that touching or capturing wild marine mammals is illegal. Decisions about the pup’s future will be made by DFO.

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DSC02352-660x440Photo Credits: Vancouver Aquarium 

Once extinct from Canada, the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) has successfully been reintroduced to British Columbia, and mainly lives off Vancouver Island. Subsequent population growth and range expansion enabled the Government of Canada to change the listing of the species from “Threatened” to “Special Concern” in 2009, as recommended by COSEWIC.

Major causes of death among Sea Otters are lack of food, predators and environmental contamination. A recent study, conducted by researchers from UC Santa Cruz, U.S. Geological Survey and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, found the energetic cost of rearing Sea Otter pups could also be leading to higher mortality rates in adult females, and more incidents of pup abandonment.

The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals, is the only one of its kind in Canada. Under authorization from DFO, the team rescues, rehabilitates and releases more than 100 animals each year; in 2016, they rescued more than 170 animals. For every patient, the goal is to treat, rehabilitate and return it to the wild as soon as possible. The veterinary team provides medical treatment to Harbor Seals, Sea Otters, Sea Lions, Sea Turtles, Elephant Seals, Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises.

This year’s rescue season is proving to be a busy one already. As well as the Sea Otter pup, the Rescue Centre has provided assistance and care to a California Sea Lion, a Steller Sea Lion pup, and 29 Harbor seals.

The Vancouver Aquarium would like to remind the public, if you see a stranded marine mammal, do not approach it and keep domestic pets away. Call the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604.258.SEAL (7325) for immediate assistance.

To report abandoned or injured wildlife in the United States, contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at: 1.844.397.8477

*The Vancouver Aquarium is a self-supporting, accredited institution and does not receive ongoing funds to provide around-the-clock care for its rescued and rehabilitated animals. To make a contribution for the care of this Sea Otter pup, please visit support.ocean.org/rescuedotter.


Rescued Sea Otter Pups Find a Home

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Found alone in frigid Alaskan waters last winter, two Sea Otter pups rescued as infants have found a permanent home at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.

Both pups were just a few weeks old when rescued – far too young to survive on their own. They were brought to Alaska SeaLife Center’s I.Sea.U where they each received 24-hour care.

The pups were deemed non-releasable by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services because without their mothers, the pups never learned basic survival skills. Vancouver Aquarium was asked to provide a long-term home for the pups. Accompanied by animal care professionals, the pups departed Alaska last week for their new home in Vancouver.

The pups do not yet have names.  Fans can help select their names by voting here through November 16.

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Photo Credit:  Daniela Ruiz/Alaska SeaLife Center


“After being found without their mothers and unable to care for themselves, these animals have been given a second chance at life,” said Brian Sheehan, curator of marine mammals at Vancouver Aquarium. “The ongoing care for a Sea Otter takes a tremendous amount of resources, and that role will continue here as our marine mammal team helps them integrate into their new home.”

Now weighing a healthy 12 kilograms, the male Sea Otter pup has been maintaining a steady diet, eating about 2.5 kilograms daily of clams, capelin, and squid. At 10.9 kilograms, the female otter eats about 2.0 kilograms of the same seafood mix.

Sea Otters face a number of challenges in the wild. During its first six months a Sea Otter pup is highly dependent on its mother for food and, without her, is unable to survive. Much of the mother’s energy is dedicated to the pup and, as a result, her health may decline over the feeding period. Female Sea Otters give birth every year so if she determines that she has a better chance of rearing a pup the following year, due to environmental factors or availability of prey, then she may abandon the pup before it’s weaned. In adult life, Sea Otters continue to face numerous threats including disease, oil spills, predation, interactions with fisheries and overharvest.

Ninety per cent of the world’s Sea Otters live in Alaska’s coastal waters. Within the state of Alaska, the Southeast and Southcentral stocks are stable or are continuing to increase. The Southwestern stock is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after experiencing a sharp population decline over the last two decades, attributed to an increase in predation from transient Killer Whales.

 


Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre Helps Harbor Seal Pups Get a Flipper Up

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre assists ill, injured, or abandoned marine mammals with the goal of rehabilitating them for release back into their natural habitat. If you believe a marine mammal is in distress, contact the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325). To learn more about their important rescue and rehab work visit: http://www.vanaqua.org/act/direct-action/marine-mammal-rescue. ZooBorns is proud to share some of the recently rescued pups along with their stories according to the centre's Facebook page.

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"PV1417 "Argon" was admitted this morning from Goose Spit in Comox. This adorable, slightly cross-eyed little pup is only the 2nd female pup admitted so far this season! She was also a transfer from Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, who were kind enough to house her overnight, and administer some much needed fluids and glucose. Again a huge thanks to Harbour Air Seaplanes for donating the cargo space to fly her over to us!"

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"PV1412 "Radium" was admitted June 26 from busy Iona beach. He was found under a jetty, trying to avoid the circling eagles in the area. Thanks Matt and Melanie, and to GVRD for assistance!"

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"PV1414 "Radon" was admitted June 28 from Vancouver Island. Thank you to Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society for housing and organizing transport for this little guy, and to helicopter pilot Norm for flying him all the way to us!"

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"Curious PV1432 "Abba" is settling in well after her transfer from the Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre to our facility. The IWNCC helps to stabilize seal pups that are found farther away from our centre, playing an important part in rehabilitating these animals in their younger, more vulnerable stages. Many thanks to Marielle and the team for helping rehabilitate this pup!"


Vancouver Aquarium Releases Rehabilitated Harbor Seals

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After receiving months of care at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, seven rehabilitated Harbor Seal pups poked their noses out of their transport kennels and wiggled down to the waters of Howe Sound on the morning of November 20. Five of the rescued seal pups were outfitted with satellite-linked transmitters, which will provide valuable data to the aquarium’s veterinary team regarding the seal pups’ travel patterns and progress following their release. 

In the water, the transmitters don't weigh anything, and the seals don't seem to be bothered by them at all! They aren't invasive; no part of the animal has been punctured or any pain caused. They will fall off by the time the animals molt next spring, if not before. When the animals move, the antennas point backwards, and so they don't affect the seals' ability to swim.The transmitters are the result of decades of collaboration between veterinarians, biologists, engineers, and programmers.  

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See photos of the release after the fold!

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Alaska SeaLife Center Rehabs Baby Otter For New Home at Vancouver Aquarium

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This orphaned female Sea Otter pup was rescued off the side of a road by Alaska SeaLife Center volunteers on October 19, 2012, after efforts to locate her mother were unsuccessful and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the intervention.The pup was immediately transferred to its I.Sea.U. critical care unit in Seward, Alaska for emergency treatment. She was estimated to be approximately eight weeks old when found, and was deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to the maternal care required by young otters.

She has just been transferred from the Alaska SeaLife Center to its new permanent home at the Vancouver Aquarium, which will allow the pup to receive the ongoing care and companionship she needs. Described as playful, and sometimes mischievous, she has adjusted well and soon will be introduced to Tanu and Elfin -- two Sea Otters who were also found stranded as pups and rescued by the Alaska SeaLife Center in years past.

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Photo Credit: Alaska SeaLife Center

Local students from the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Ocean Sciences Club provided three possible Alaskan names for the baby Otter: Susitna, Katmaiand Glacier. The final choice will be made through a voting contest held by the Vancouver Aquarium. 

Learn more of this story of teamwork below the fold:

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Peek-A-Boo! Little Goeldi's Marmoset gets first look at the world

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The Goeldi’s Marmoset troop at the Vancouver Aquarium welcomed a new addition in early September.  This is the fourth baby born to Ginger, the troop’s matriarch, and an important addition to the captive population of these primates, which are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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Kristen Brown, the animal care specialist responsible for these animals, says that female Goeldi’s marmosets generally have two offspring a year. Kristen says the baby will spend the next couple of weeks hanging on to its mom’s shoulders, crawling to her belly when it’s time to nurse.  Eventually, the baby will begin to venture out on its own and become interested in what everyone else is eating: fruits, vegetables and insects.

After two months, the baby will start jumping and climbing as it grows stronger. And if past experience is any indication, it will also start to chase and be chased by its brothers and sisters.

Goeldi’s Marmosets are native to the upper Amazon Basin in South America.  These tiny primates are only about 8 inches (20 cm) long, excluding the tail.  Like most tropical primates, they feed on fruit, insects, and small vertebrates.  During the dry season, they feed on fungi, making them the only tropical primate to depend on this food item.

Photo Credit: Neil Fisher