science

A pair of Alaskan sea otters will take up residents in a sea life centre in the UK


A pair of adorable Alaskan sea otters will take up residence in a new multi-million pound enclosure at the National Sea Life centre in Birmingham next year. 

It took the centre two-and-a-half years to secure permission to bring the critically endangered marine mammals from the USA to the UK.

The sea otters face a 5,000 mile journey over land and air to get from Alaska to their new home in Birmingham.

Following a police escort, the precious cargo will go in to quarantine and settle in to their new state-of-the-art and temperature controlled facility in Birmingham.

A pair of 'adorable' Alaskan sea otters will take up residence in a new multi-million pound enclosure at the National Sea Life centre in Birmingham next year

A pair of ‘adorable’ Alaskan sea otters will take up residence in a new multi-million pound enclosure at the National Sea Life centre in Birmingham next year

Sea otters – known as the ‘teddy bears of the ocean’ – often need rescuing after being stranded by their mothers when they are pups.

They need a lot of maternal care as infants otherwise they wouldn’t survive and this is where rescue centres step in to keep them alive. 

The sea otters are being brought to the UK to ease space pressures on the Alaska Wildlife Centre and as part of an education and conservation programme.

The Sea Life Trust says it will not be breeding them.

The otters - known as the 'teddy bears of the ocean' - face a 5,000 mile journey over land and air to get from Alaska to the Birmingham

The otters – known as the ‘teddy bears of the ocean’ – face a 5,000 mile journey over land and air to get from Alaska to the Birmingham

The centre says the facility will replicate their natural habitat in the wild and give them a safe sanctuary for the rest of their lives

The centre says the facility will replicate their natural habitat in the wild and give them a safe sanctuary for the rest of their lives

The centre says the facility will replicate their natural habitat in the wild and give them a safe sanctuary for the rest of their lives. 

‘This is such an incredibly exciting time for us’, said Jonny Rudd, Curator at the National Sea Life Centre Birmingham.

‘It’s been a pioneering project for the country, taking global efforts and a collective vision with our conservation partners to protect the world’s oceans and the incredible marine life which lives within.’

Often sea otters need rescuing after being stranded by their mother when they are pups - usually after their mother has died

Often sea otters need rescuing after being stranded by their mother when they are pups – usually after their mother has died

They need a lot of maternal care as infants otherwise they wouldn't survive and this is where rescue centres step in to keep them alive

They need a lot of maternal care as infants otherwise they wouldn’t survive and this is where rescue centres step in to keep them alive

The Sea life Trust is working alongside the Alaska Wildlife Rescue where these otters first came to after being rescued. 

‘Alaska’s wildlife is being displaced by a growing population and encroaching development, which results in injured and orphaned wild animals in need of assistance,’ said Keith Lange, Alaska Wildlife Rescue Founder.

Once hunted to near extinction for their thick, rich pelt, sea otter numbers have increased but they are still listed as seriously endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The sea otters are being brought to the UK to ease space pressures on the Alaska Wildlife Centre and as part of an education and conservation programme

The sea otters are being brought to the UK to ease space pressures on the Alaska Wildlife Centre and as part of an education and conservation programme

The Sea life Trust is working alongside the Alaska Wildlife Rescue where these otters first came to after being rescued

The Sea life Trust is working alongside the Alaska Wildlife Rescue where these otters first came to after being rescued

The species is now playing a role in marine education programmes, including this partnership between the Sea Life Trust and Alaska Wildlife Rescue.

‘With our world under threat like never before, there are now more orphaned sea otters than the world’s aquariums have room for and their future looks bleak. 

‘But Birmingham has made space’, a Sea Life Trust spokesperson said.

The organisation says it hopes they will be an ‘inspirational guide to becoming better residents of the planet’.

‘The sea otters arrival will be a landmark moment for the UK and give us a sense of connection to nature and wildlife from across the globe’, said Mr Rudd.

The species is now playing a role in marine education programmes, including this partnership between the Sea Life Trust and Alaska Wildlife Rescue

The species is now playing a role in marine education programmes, including this partnership between the Sea Life Trust and Alaska Wildlife Rescue

The organisation says it hopes they will be an 'inspirational guide to becoming better residents of the planet'

The organisation says it hopes they will be an ‘inspirational guide to becoming better residents of the planet’

He said they will help to highlight the unconscious impact we’re having on the environment so we can start to make small differences.

“It’s a guardianship commitment with full 360 vision, meaning that monies raised through the sea otters residency in Birmingham will have a direct and positive impact to environmental efforts on the ground in Alaska’.  

Humans are the biggest threat to sea otter populations according to the Sea Life Trust, which says increasing water temperatures are leading to more viruses surviving longer and killing the species.

‘Direct conflict with humans, such as entrapment in fishing traps and nets pose a major threat to sea otters, but oil spills, other pollution, and loss of kelp forests are also threatening sea otters.’

Following a police escort, the precious cargo will go in to quarantine and settle in to their new state-of-the-art and temperature controlled facility in Birmingham

Following a police escort, the precious cargo will go in to quarantine and settle in to their new state-of-the-art and temperature controlled facility in Birmingham

WHAT ARE SEA OTTERS AND WHERE DO THEY LIVE? 

The Sea Otter is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. 

More than 90 per cent of all Sea Otters live in Alaska where population increases and warming waters are impacting on their habitat

More than 90 per cent of all Sea Otters live in Alaska where population increases and warming waters are impacting on their habitat  

Adults typically weigh between 31lb and 99lb making them one of the smallest marine mammals. 

Their main form of insulation is a thick coat of fur that led to their nickname ‘the teddy bears of the Ocean’. 

They can live exclusively in the ocean or walk around on land. 

It’s estimated at their peak there would have been up to 300,000 sea otters living around the world.

This fell to about 1,000 in the 1800s due to being hunted for their fur. 

Today it’s thought there are about 125,000 individuals living in the world. 



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