Throughout Sea Otter Awareness Week, Public Can Vote on Names for the Pups and Learn Their Stories
Heading into Sea Otter Awareness Week (Sept. 22-28), people across the country will have a say in how two rescued, southern sea otter pups at Shedd Aquarium get names. The aquarium will host a digital naming contest focused on building affinity and understanding around sea otters and inspiring voters to also make their voices heard in support of conservation legislation and protections that are critical for vulnerable species like otters.
The five-month-old pups, both males, were discovered on the coast of California with no mother or adult otters in sight at just a couple weeks old and rescued by partners at Monterey Bay Aquarium. Currently referred to by their intake numbers, Pups 870 and 872 were cared for at Monterey before Shedd Aquarium’s Animal Response Team flew out to California to assist in their care and accompany them home to Chicago. Since their arrival at Shedd, the pups have been living behind the scenes in the Regenstein Pup Nursery as animal care staff teach them how to be otters – building important skills like foraging, diving and grooming their dense fur.
Shedd Aquarium’s animal care staff prepared a short list of names for the public to choose from, and all the names correspond to a location along the coast of California where sea otters can be found. This helps the aquarium make a connection with guests to their native habitat and explain why sea otters are an important part of the marine ecosystem. The names for consideration are:
- Cooper: named after Cupertino, Calif., near San Jose
- Watson: named after the town of Watsonville, near Monterey and Port Watsonville, less than an hour drive from where pup 872 was found
- Bennett: named after Point Bennett on San Miguel Island – one of the Channel Islands
- Simon: named after Simonton Cove on San Miguel Island – one of the Channel Islands
- Obi: short for Obispo of San Luis Obispo
The public can vote as many times as they’d like on Shedd’s website starting today. Voting will close on Saturday, Sept. 28. Throughout the week, the aquarium will also be sharing regular sea otter content and updates to help inform the vote, but also help people understand their role in protecting this species.
“Sea otters are around today because enough people came together and demanded protections like the Endangered Species Act – our country’s bedrock conservation legislation,” said Peggy Sloan, chief animal officer at Shedd Aquarium. “Aquariums like Shedd and Monterey can only rescue and rehabilitate so many otters – the best way we can ensure the continued survival of species like sea otters is by making your voices heard with elected officials, letting them know that you oppose the weakening of any kind on protections like the ESA.”
Shedd Aquarium plans to announce the winning names of the contest on Monday, Sept. 30. At that time, the otter pups, which have been living behind the scenes in the Regenstein Pup Nursery will also be introduced to the Regenstein Sea Otter Habitat, so the public may have their first opportunity to see the pups during a visit. This introduction will happen gradually over the following weeks, so the pups may still spend some intermittent time behind the scenes as well.
Shedd Aquarium is grateful to the Regenstein Foundation for its generous support for the rescue and rehabilitation of Shedd Aquarium’s newest sea otters. A longtime friend to the aquarium, the foundation has made significant contributions to these animals over many years, ensuring expert care in their home in the Regenstein Foundation Otter Habitat and Pup Nursery. Additional support for the rescue of these otters was generously provided by Lauran and Myrna Bromley.
About Sea Otters
The smallest marine mammal species, sea otters are members of the weasel or mustelid family. Adult females can weigh between 35 and 60 pounds; males reach up to 90 pounds. Instead of blubber to keep them warm, they have very thick hair that consists of two layers: an undercoat and longer guard hairs. The otter’s fur is the thickest in the animal kingdom, with nearly 1 million hairs per square inch – and it’s critically important to their survival, so they spend up to four hours a day grooming. If they do not keep their coat immaculate, they risk getting cold and dying of hypothermia.
Pups stay with their mothers until they are up to eight months old. Otters do not mate for life but form a bond that lasts for three or four days. After mating, the male leaves the female and is not involved in raising the pup. Sea otters must eat at least 25 percent of their body weight each day to maintain a high metabolic rate, which keeps their internal body temperature at 100 degrees. They eat bottom-dwelling nearshore animals, such as abalone, clams, sea urchins, crabs and octopus. Without sea otters, urchins can completely consume forests of kelp, devastating other animals relying on that resource for food and shelter. This makes sea otters a keystone species.
About Shedd Aquarium
The John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago sparks compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world. Home to 32,000 aquatic animals representing 1,500 species of fishes, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, birds and mammals from waters around the globe, Shedd is a recognized leader in animal care, conservation education and research. An accredited member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and the first U.S. aquarium to be awarded the Humane Conservation™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals by American Humane, Shedd is also an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, and is supported by the people of Chicago, the State of Illinois and the Chicago Park District. www.sheddaquarium.org