Sea Otter – Breaking The Human Bond

Sea Otter – Breaking The Human Bond

Music; Ambience: Sea Otters

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, marine biologists are trying to restore a population of threatened Southern Sea Otters to the California Coast. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Andy Johnson helps rehabilitate abandoned Sea Otter pups at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program.

“Raising Sea Otter pups is extraordinarily difficult. The investment that a female otter has to give to its pup is almost constant. As soon as we get a pup into our program we start 24-hour shifts. We try to keep it to just a few people so that they can have good consistency in terms of their care, but basically those people have to just be with that pup all of the time.”

Staff biologists feed and groom the pup around the clock, and they’ll take it out for supervised swims, where they’ll teach it how to forage for shellfish. After months of constant contact, the pup develops a strong bond of attachment to its human parents. But familiarity with humans is not a good survival skill, since sea otters may be injured by boats or by divers in the wild. And so the pup must eventually go it alone.

“At some point we need to break that bond. So usually at about four months of age, we figure that we’ve invested as much as we can in terms of these supervised swims out in the bay, and we’ll then put the pup into either isolation or into a pool with other sea otters. And anytime we go into contact with the otters it’s for very short periods of time – or it might even be for time periods that are sort of aversive to the sea otters, that they don’t like interacting with us. We might have to put them in a cage to move them to another pool. We might have to net them to do a physical examination. So again we try to back away from anything that is positive and might encourage the pup to want to interact with people.”

Today due to the efforts of wildlife biologists over two thousand Southern Sea Otters thrive near Monterey Bay.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.

Sea Otter - Breaking The Human Bond

Marine biologists play surrogate mom to injured sea lions, taking care that their young charges don't get too attached to them.
Air Date:01/21/2010
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Sea Otter - Breaking The Human Bond

Music; Ambience: Sea Otters

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, marine biologists are trying to restore a population of threatened Southern Sea Otters to the California Coast. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Andy Johnson helps rehabilitate abandoned Sea Otter pups at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program.

"Raising Sea Otter pups is extraordinarily difficult. The investment that a female otter has to give to its pup is almost constant. As soon as we get a pup into our program we start 24-hour shifts. We try to keep it to just a few people so that they can have good consistency in terms of their care, but basically those people have to just be with that pup all of the time."

Staff biologists feed and groom the pup around the clock, and they'll take it out for supervised swims, where they'll teach it how to forage for shellfish. After months of constant contact, the pup develops a strong bond of attachment to its human parents. But familiarity with humans is not a good survival skill, since sea otters may be injured by boats or by divers in the wild. And so the pup must eventually go it alone.

"At some point we need to break that bond. So usually at about four months of age, we figure that we've invested as much as we can in terms of these supervised swims out in the bay, and we'll then put the pup into either isolation or into a pool with other sea otters. And anytime we go into contact with the otters it's for very short periods of time - or it might even be for time periods that are sort of aversive to the sea otters, that they don't like interacting with us. We might have to put them in a cage to move them to another pool. We might have to net them to do a physical examination. So again we try to back away from anything that is positive and might encourage the pup to want to interact with people."

Today due to the efforts of wildlife biologists over two thousand Southern Sea Otters thrive near Monterey Bay.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.