With all the cute critters out there in the critter world, it can easily be argued that a baby otter is in the pantheon of the cute-overload department. This hour-long NATURE special follows one such baby otter puff, a days-old orphan that was found alone and hungry, meeping for her mom on a California beach. After ascertaining that the pup’s mom was not floating nearby, but was most likely dead, a team of biologists rescued the pup and took her to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The team at the Aquarium dubs her Otter 501, as she is the organization’s 501st attempt at rescuing and rehabilitating a wild otter to survive re-release into the wild. With the experience of hundreds of rescue trials and errors (release back into the wild is by no means guaranteed to be successful), the team’s methods are constantly being adapted. The otters need to be taught how to dive, hunt, eat, and fend for themselves in the wild. Add into that the importance of making sure the otters are not dependent on humans, both for food and emotional needs, and the rescue crew faces a great challenge.
NATURE: Saving Otter 501 is squee-worthy, educational, and sobering. In the past, the California sea otters were hunted to the brink of extinction for their fur, making the work of the Monterey Bay Aquarium that much more urgent. Marine biologist Karl Mayer and his small staff at the Aquarium are not only faced with the difficulties of rescue, one pup at a time, but in trying to understand why the population continues to struggle in the wild. Predatory sharks are one thing, but there seems to be no clear explanation as to why, after a mini-boom in the 1980s, the population has stalled.
Mayer and the Monterey team (including an awesome surrogate otter-mom named Toola… OMG) face a sobering challenge, trying to save just one of the many struggling species whose chances at long-term survival is still teetering. Saving Otter 501 is a tribute to rescuers like this team, and the critters that are fighting extinction.