Something unexpected happened amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Orphaned sea otter pup Joey – rescued in July by the Vancouver Aquarium-affiliated Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre from a remote beach on northern Vancouver Island – became a global YouTube sensation and an ‘emotional support otter’ to people all over the world.
Thousands of devoted Joey followers – from as far away as Germany and Japan – tune in daily to the 24/7 live ‘JoeyCam’ on YouTube to be part of newborn otter’s rehabilitation journey, first at the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and now at the affiliated Vancouver Aquarium.
Joey’s fans delight in seeing the pup napping, bathing, swimming, eating or being groomed by his care staff. But Joey is more than just entertainment for his community: Joey’s fans have reported how the otter has helped them through the pandemic, with anxiety, depression and even insomnia.
Emotional Support Otter
Joey has captured the hearts and minds of animal lovers around the world having been covered on Fox News (online and TV), People Magazine, Vancouver Sun, mainstream media across Canada and he has more than 1 million views on TikTok. And at any given time Joey has more than 1,000 viewers on YouTube.
But more importantly, Joey and his dedicated animal care team, are having a big impact on people’s emotional health during the pandemic. In fact, of 500 Joey fans recently surveyed, 100% of people described how Joey made them feel better, helped them get through a difficult time and/or helped with depression.
YouTube comments from Joey’s devoted fans include:
ChasingTheRain: I have been watching this live stream from the start – it’s one of the few things which has kept me sane and has helped to restore my faith in humanity.
babeage: Thank you for this. The world is so out of control that it’s nice to see compassion and care on display.
Joseph: No lie, Joey has helped me in more ways than he will ever know… Watching him grow up really helped my mental state in very trying times.
Hugh: As a 30-year-old who works in a hospital, I find this incredibly relaxing on my breaks.
Jos: I am a high school teacher, and it’s very stressful right now… Joey is my stress reliever. I’ve also recommended him to students! This is the best ever. Having a difficult day? Joey is the answer!
Joey was believed to be just 10-days-old when he was rescued from a beach near Kyuquot on the west coast of northern Vancouver Island. Upon arrival at the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre he was just 3.5 pounds, hypoglycemic and hypothermic and put in intensive care with round the clock care by staff and volunteers who feed, bathed and groomed the newborn pup. Staff named him Joey as a tribute to a long-time supporter who helped re-open the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre for the 2020 season. As he improved, Joey was moved to a purpose-built nursey at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Sea Otter Facts
Did you know that sea otters eat nearly 25% of their bodyweight in food every day? It costs about $1200 a month to feed just one of the seven rescued sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Once hunted to extinction from the BC coast by 19th century fur traders, sea otters were successfully reintroduced to BC in the 1970s but are still listed as a ‘Species of Special Concern’ by the Government of Canada.
Sea otters play a very important role in BC coastal ecosystem health and have a role in combatting climate change! Otters eat sea urchins which, left unchecked, devour our kelp forests. Since sea otters have been reintroduced to BC, underwater kelp forests have grown twenty-fold in some areas providing new habitat for a range of fish including rockfish, salmon and ling cod. In addition, kelp beds serve as an important carbon dioxide sink making them an unsung hero in the fight against climate change.
You can help support the ongoing care of Joey, and the 70,000 other animals at the Vancouver Aquarium and Ocean wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre by donating or purchasing our new, limited edition “Joey” facemask in partnership with Vancouver Whitecaps FC.