My family visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium over Spring Break. It is a beautiful facility right on the bay with a big emphasis on conservation and protecting waterways and wildlife. One of its biggest attractions is the sea otters, and for good reason! They are ridiculously cute!
While there, we listened to a talk about how the aquarium is involved in rescuing and rehabilitating sea otters. We learned that they have to clean their fur nearly all day long to keep it water-repellant and to make sure they stay warm and insulated in the chilly water. We also learned that they use rocks to crack open clams. Such smart little fur balls!
The presenter told us a story about a baby sea otter who was found in the bay without her mother. He said that she was squealing and calling for her, but no one came. He said this sometimes occurs after a storm when animals can be separated from their families.
They took the baby otter back to their facility to see if another otter, an adult female named Toola, would adopt this baby. They weren’t sure if it would work but hoped that since Toola had just given birth to a stillborn pup, she had the right hormones to make mothering this orphan pup an appealing idea. It worked and the baby—later named Luna for Half Moon Bay, the location of the beach where she was discovered—survived. Toola went on to be a surrogate mother to 13 pups over the years until her death in 2012.
Beyond the fact that otters are so adorable (please stop what you’re doing and watch a video of them right now), it was moving to hear how they care for their own babies or the babies they are given. As an adoptive mom with a son who is celebrating 3 years as a part of our family, I identified with Toola in a special way. Something as unbreakable and supernatural as a mother/child connection becomes even more miraculous when the mother is given a child to care for who she never carried inside her. But that connection is definitely there.
When we were called to be a family to our youngest son, we became more important to him than anyone else on earth, just as Toola was to all her pups. The aquarium employees and veterinary specialists who worked with Toola over the years gave her a lot of credit for the success of the aquarium’s sea otter program and even for the passing of legislation which protects sea otters in the wild. And all because she welcomed a vulnerable baby into her arms.