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The sea otter family at the Vancouver Aquarium grew by two last night. Our marine mammal care team has welcomed two new rescued sea otter pups from Alaska who will soon meet Elfin, Katmai, Tanu and pup Rialto.

Following months of rehabilitation at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, AK, the two rescued sea otter pups have been transferred to Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre to receive long-term care. The male pup, now almost nine months old, was admitted on February 11, 2016 after being found by a member of the public in Kachemak Bay, AK. A female pup, approximately eight months old, was spotted by the U.S. Coast Guard and washed ashore on Homer Spit near Homer, AK. She was admitted on March 31, 2016.

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The sea otter pups arrive in Vancouver on their London Air Services flight.

The male pup was estimated to be a week old when found, and the female was estimated at 23 days old. They were placed in Alaska SeaLife Center’s I.Sea.U where they each received 24-hour care. The male required immediate weaning to solids and extensive coat maintenance. Dehydrated and requiring antibiotics when she arrived, the young female spent two weeks in intensive care.

Both pups were deemed non-releasable by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services as the pups were very young when they were rescued and didn’t have sufficient maternal care to learn the necessary survival skills. Vancouver Aquarium was asked to provide a long-term home for the pups so they may receive ongoing care for their needs. They arrived yesterday evening on a flight courtesy of London Air Services and were transferred to their new habitat under the careful supervision of Vancouver Aquarium’s curator of marine mammals Brian Sheehan and head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena.

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The pups getting accustomed to their new habitat at the Aquarium.

“After being found without their mothers and unable to care for themselves, these animals have been given a second chance at life,” said Sheehan. We have been working closely with our partners at Alaska SeaLife Centre who have helped to prepare the pups for a safe and healthy arrival to Vancouver Aquarium.”

Raising sea otters require a tremendous amount of care, with pups eating about 25 – 30 per cent of their body weight daily. That role will continue at the Aquarium as the marine mammal team helps them integrate into their new home.

Initially the pups will be located together in one of the Aquarium’s two sea otter habitats, before being introduced through periodic interactions to the four other sea otters.

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First swims for the rescued Alaskan otter pups in the Aquarium habitat.

The pups do not yet have names and the public is invited to join Vancouver Aquarium in selecting them. A voting page has been created and a short list of names selected: Mak, Fritz, Paxson, Kunik, Tutka and Kalluk. Entrants can vote daily for their favourite male name and favourite female name check back regularly to see which two are in the lead. On November 17, the most popular two names will be announced and two participants will be randomly selected for an up-close and memorable visit with the pups.

Visitors to Vancouver Aquarium can get to know the pups and hear more about their stories at regular Sea Otter Talks. A live webcam will also stream video of the otters as they explore their new habitat.

Help care for the new sea otter pups by visiting http://support.vanaqua.org/otterpups.

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. Due to environmental factors or availability of prey, mothers may abandon the pup before it’s weaned. Ninety per cent of the world’s sea otters live in Alaska’s coastal waters — 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.

 

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