2007/06/14

Otterly Wonderful

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Reuters photo

A baby sea otter being carried by its mother at Sunshine International Aquarium in Tokyo. The baby was born on June 2, 2007, to mother Meel and father Roochi, and is the first Russian sea otter to be bred in captivity in Japan.

There are only three kinds of sea otters - Russian, North Pacific, and Californian - which are found along the coasts of the North Pacific from Japan to Baja California. They are endangered and some populations, such as in the Aleutian Islands, which hosts both Russian and North Pacific sea otters, have declined 95% in the last thirty years, falling from over 100,000 to only about 6,000 animals in those waters. The California sea otters are also in trouble with only about 3,000 animals left.

Interestingly, they are the only species other than primates known to use tools. They use rocks to pry abalone and urchins off the sea bed and also as a hammer to crack them open when they feed.

"Sea otters are what scientists refer to as "keystone species," a term that refers to their functional role within their ecosystem. The feeding habits of the sea otter have a top-down effect on the marine ecosystem, meaning that their actions affect organisms lower in the food chain. Sea otters are also indicators of the health of that ecosystem. The sea otter derives much of its nutritional needs from shellfish which, unfortunately, put the otter at odds with the commercial shellfish industry. However sea otters play an important role in maintaining the health of the kelp ecosystem. By limiting the numbers of shellfish that feed on kelp, the sea otter promotes the development of kelp forests which are larger, more productive, and more diverse biologically and structurally. Kelp beds, in turn, provide habitat for fish and other invertebrate species." -Defenders of Wildlife

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AP photo

So, I think we otter be very happy about this birth!
Besides, they're so cute, yeah?

12 comments:

nzm said...

I love these guys!

Everytime I go to Monterey I can spend hours looking for them in the kelp beds off the beach.

Don Snabulus said...

Hang on otters! Hi Momo. You are a well educated canine. You remind me of a fictional dog by the name of Descartes. He was part of a great story you can find here.

Momo the Wonder Dog said...

NZM - PandaB used to see them near Morrow Bay, California. Their fur looks even softer than mine.

Snabby - I only know what I read in the newspaper. Thanks for the book link. The philosopher Descartes had a dog. His name was Mr. Scratch. wag wag wag

The Moody Minstrel said...

Sea otters are cute, but I wouldn't advise trying to pet one. They are both territorial and very aggressive. They also have a very nasty-sounding growl when they get irritated.

Swinebread said...

Otters are the best, I love seeing them at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, but moody’s right… look but don’t touch.

ladybug said...

Yes, they are very cute! I've seen them at both the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Oregon Coast one too.

If I remember right, they were all hunted out, and thought extinct in California, until one tiny group was discovered in a sheltered cove. (For more info on the Russian/Alaskan fur trade connection, visit Fort Ross website at the California State Parks
here: http://www.mcn.org/1/rrparks/fortross/ )

Moody is right, they can be very agressive! When they make, the male bites the nose of the female (so I guess she "marked" as mated), and it often looks like a bloody mess!

I wonder if the Aleutian Islands ones are allowed to be hunted? Maybe there are other countries that taking them as well? (Russia, Japan, Korea?)

Momo the Wonder Dog said...

Moody - like me. grrrrr. Woo woo woo woof! (well, I don't really bite).

Swinebread - that water's too cold anyway.

Ladybug - yeah. Hunted out then protected under international treaty in 1911. The numbers increased after that until recent decades. Aleutian numbers fell faster than any other animal decline. Why is a matter of controversy. Alaskan Natives are allowed to hunt. But mostly it is believed that the overfishing of their food by humans is responsible (clams, crabs, urchins, abalone). Also the decline of sea lions has forced Orcas to look for other food and they have begun to eat otters. Gill netting is also deadly for sea otters.

It took the Center for Biological Diversity five years and two lawsuits to get the Bush administration to finally give the sea otters Federal protection under the Endangered Species act. That was finally done in 2005.

It's not nice to fool mother nature! Humans need to learn to live in balance with other species.

WOOF!

bonnie said...

I don't know, Momo, this young'un may give Tucker the Puppy a run for the cute money.

I went & took an American Canoe Association instructor development workshop from a company based in Sausalito back in 1999 or so. My friend, mentor and at the time business partner Richard encouraged me to do so, and then decided to come along & do the class too, which was great as before he joined Paul Taylor Dance Company (ok, so I'm name dropping) he used to live out there, so he had friends who let us stay at their places, he had a car he was able to borrow, and he knew how to get to the various places we had to get to.

First of which was a coffeeshop that you had to drive across a little bridge. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tire floating in the water. Well, that's what my NYC-acclimatized eyes/brain said - large, rounded, dark object in the water? Tire.

Then I actually looked AT it. Sea otter.

COOL!

The instructors did make sure that we all understood that the sea otters & other critters were not to be disturbed.

Momo the Wonder Dog said...

Bonnie - yeah, and that Tucker is sure cute peeking out of the kayak.

Seeing a sea otter like that must have been way cool. Much better than a tire. :p

Suray said...

Very touching!

Momo the Wonder Dog said...

Suray - thank you for visiting from Indonesia!

Reena said...

loverrrly. :)