Vancouver, B.C. – Last night, after an exciting day of travelling from Alaska, rescued baby sea otter pup Tazlina arrived safe and sound at her new home, the Vancouver Aquarium. Visitors may be in for an adorable surprise this Saturday morning as Tazlina will be visible as she discovers her new environment.
Life in the sea otter habitat at the Vancouver Aquarium can get frisky, but its six current residents ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. This baby Northern sea otter is a youngster, and she’s surely going to shake things up.
Discovered in April by fishermen trawling for salmon in Alaska’s Anchor Point as a furry newborn, umbilical cord still attached, Tazlina was on her own. She was taken to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, where she was found to be dehydrated.
Staff there named her after a southeastern Alaska region near the spot where she was discovered. Tazlina weighed in at 1.45 kg., and animal care staff concluded that she had probably just been born on the day she was found.
Most sea otter pups are deemed non-releasable by government agencies, due to the amount of hands-on care demanded by the rehabilitation process. The human contact required by hand-feeding and grooming makes the pups too friendly to humans, which is not in their best interest in the wild.
Staff at the Alaska SeaLife Center gave Tazlina 24-hour care, bottle-feeding her with a proven mixture of puppy formula and ground-up clams. They also taught her sea otter life skills that included grooming, an essential task, because if a sea otter’s protective fur becomes matted, cold water on its exposed skin for extended periods can result in hypothermia. Since sea otters do all of their urinating and defecating in the water, being groomed and able to swim, no matter what the temperature, are requirements.
Staff members used a combination of their fingers and combs in order to ensure that Tazlina’s fur was properly groomed.
“She’s very curious, so she started to mimic that behaviour,” said Vancouver Aquarium marine mammal trainer Rachel Nelson, who spent three weeks at the center, getting to know her. The objective is a smooth and happy transition for Tazlina from the center to the aquarium.
Alaska SeaLife Center staff, with the help of experienced Vancouver Aquarium trainers and veterinary technicians, have slowly weaned the pup from her bottles to a diet of clams, capelin and squid. Tazlina already weighs more than 9.35 kg.
At this point in her young life, she hasn’t met any other otters. That will change as she slowly gets used to the Vancouver Aquarium.
“This little lady will be flown here in a transport kennel, on board a private aircraft, with a highly skilled team, consisting of a sea otter trainer, a veterinary technician and a veterinarian,” said Nelson. “She was closely monitored to make sure she didn’t get too warm.”
Water spray and ice service were administered during the four-hour journey. The plane was maintained at a comfortable cool temperature for the pup. Cabin pressure was kept very low during transport, as well.
After settling into her private nursery at the Aquarium, Tazlina will slowly be introduced to her habitat-mates, all rescues themselves. She should be a big hit with sea otters and visitors alike, in Nelson’s view.
“Tazlina’s cute – she’s got quite a little personality. It’ll be fun to watch her explore her new habitat. People get very connected to seeing a young sea otter come through.”
The Vancouver Aquarium only has Northern sea otters, which are a different sub-species than the Southern variety. Protected as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act & Marine Mammal Protection Act, Northern sea otters have made a huge comeback off the shores of Southeast Alaska and Vancouver Island. As a keystone species that keeps the kelp-eating sea urchins and other invertebrates in check, sea otters are important to the ocean ecosystem. They eat the equivalent of a quarter of their weight every day.
Northern sea otters – the largest member of the weasel family — were once widely found all over the North Pacific Rim, from northern Japan to Russia, Canada and the U.S., but, by the start of the 20th century, the maritime fur trade had reduced that number to a mere 2,000. The North Pacific Fur Seal Treaty of 1911 included sea otters and protected the species somewhat. A management plan between countries led to further efforts, beginning in the 1970s, with the United States Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Canada’s Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, signed in 2002. There are also anti-intentional capture provisions in Russia and Japan.
British Columbia’s sea otters are descendants of 89 Alaskan sea otters that were relocated by government biologists to the west coast of Vancouver Island between 1969 and 1972. By 2008, their population had ballooned to 5,000, and at this point, estimates suggest that number has climbed to 6,000. The Canada Fisheries Act and the B.C. Wildlife Act protect the B.C. sea otter population as a “threatened” species.
Members of the public are invited to symbolically “adopt” a sea otter pup at http://support.ocean.org/symbolicadopt. These adoptions help fund ongoing rehabilitation efforts at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, which rescues, rehabilitates and releases about 150 animals each year. The team’s objective is always to release these wild animals back into nature.
Vancouver Aquarium® Marine Mammal Rescue Centre
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, an Ocean Wise initiative, is a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals. The Rescue Centre rescues stranded marine mammals and rehabilitates them for release back into their natural habitat. Donate to the Rescue Centre at www.vanaqua.org/donate.
Ocean Wise is a not-for-profit organization whose vision is a world in which oceans are healthy and flourishing. www.ocean.org
Social Media: @VanAqua | #VanAqua
Communications manager │ Ocean Wise
Our vision is a world in which oceans
are healthy and flourishing. | ocean.org