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