LONG BEACH (CBSLA) — A baby sea otter that was found orphaned off Pismo Beach has a new home at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
The 14-week-old southern sea otter was found by Marine Mammal Center's trained responders, who determined the orphaned pup could not survive on his own in the wild. The Aquarium of the Pacific, which participates in the Sea Otter Surrogacy program, stepped up to offer the pup a new home.
The pup has since been receiving round-the-clock care, which includes feeding him every one to three hours. He has been residing with one of the aquarium's female sea otters, officials said, and is looking healthier and gaining weight.
"When he arrived at the aquarium a few weeks ago, he weighed about 10 pounds," Brett Long, the aquarium's curator of marine mammals and birds, said in a statement. "He is eating well and is now up to 16 pounds."
The sea otter pup – who doesn't seem to have a name yet -- will officially join the aquarium's other sea otter residents in the main habitat on Dec. 28.
The pup's arrival gives aquarium staff working with the Sea Otter Surrogacy program a chance to learn more about caring for orphaned pups. The program pairs resident otters with orphans so they can teach them skills to survive in the wild. The Aquarium of the Pacific is building its new surrogacy area at its Molina Care Center, with a goal of caring for up to four rescued sea otter pups every year.
"Staff interaction with the orphaned otters in the surrogacy program will need to be minimal, and staff will need to wear special suits that distort the human form so these pups have a better chance at surviving in the wild," Long said.
California's sea otters were hunted to near extinction in the early 1900s and are now a protected species. The population has grown from 50 in 1938 to nearly 3,000 today, but their population growth has stalled due to factors like oil spills, pollution, and climate change, according to the aquarium.
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