Babies always steal the show.
And on Tuesday, Dec. 28, an otter pup making his public debut at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach had visitors cooing and taking nonstop photos with their cell phones.
The orphaned pup was found four weeks ago and rescued off the coast of Pismo Beach by trained responders from The Marine Mammal Center’s field office in Morro Bay.
After government wildlife officials determined the 5-week-old otter could not survive on his own if immediately released, the Aquarium of the Pacific stepped up to take the otter into its surrogacy program.
The pup was malnourished and underweight for his age when the Monterey Bay Aquarium initially took him in. He now weighs 20 pounds.
When he’s strong enough, he will be released back into the wild. Because of his eventual return to open waters, he won’t be named by the aquarium team.
This week, he was transferred to one of the aquarium’s otter habitat exhibit tanks, still with his “surrogate mom” and another adult otter, where his antics were clearly enjoyed by the holiday-week crowd.
The otter — adorable, let’s just say it — could be seen napping, playing and putting on a show for visitors as he got acquainted with his foster home.
With his button otter nose, big eyes and whiskers, he played peek-a-boo as he tucked himself inside the tank’s rocky underwater tunnel, dipped and turned as he swam gracefully below the surface guided by surrogate mom “Betty,” and came face-to-face with his audience in a drive-by swim that brought several human hands flat onto the glass by way of inter-species greeting.
Kim Cooper was visiting from Santa Clarita with her 10-year-old twin boys.
“Oh, that’s so cute,” she said as the pup struggled to climb up on the adult-sized rocks in the giant swim tank, following the two larger otters in their steps.
“Oh, hello,” Mary Kingman of Long Beach said to the pup when he came close to the viewing glass.
She’d read about the rescue and came by the aquarium to see his public debut.
Aquarium staff members provided round-the-clock care for the southern sea otter after he arrived at about 14 months old, feeding him every one to three hours in his behind-the-scenes nursery where he stayed with Betty, a female otter resident at the aquarium.
The otter pup is being cared for under the aquarium’s Sea Otter Surrogacy program, operated in partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The program pairs resident aquarium otters with orphaned pups to teach them skills to survive in the wild.
Betty will be 10 years old in January and weighs just over 50 pounds. This is the first otter pup she’s spent time with, according to information from the aquarium’s Curator of Mammals and Birds Brett Long.
The pup is doing well, aquarium officials said, as he learns to be more efficient at foraging and receiving food from the aquarium’s caretakers. He’s learned to crack open mussels and shell shrimp, but for now, mostly is being given soft food items, Long said.
At his public debut Tuesday, the new baby otter already gained more than a few fans.
“Is that the rescue baby?” one woman asked as a crowd began to gather.
“There he is!” one woman said as the pup with his foster mom glided through the water.
Few could resist the cuteness.
One spectator, as she moved on to the next exhibit, simply summed it all up: “I love babies.”
Source: Orange County Register