Monterey Bay Aquarium Welcomes its Newest Resident Otter

Aug 19, 2016

Aquarium News


A rescued California sea otter pup who survived a shark bite in the wild before becoming an important part of a sea otter research initiative is now the newest member of the Sea Otter exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Selka's History

The story of Selka begins four years ago, when Sea Otter Program staff rescued her when she stranded in Cayucos, at the south end of the Big Sur coast, as a one-week-old pup. At the aquarium, staff rehabilitated, fed, groomed and introduced her to surrogate mothers, who taught Selka what she’d need to know to survive in the wild. 

Eight weeks after her release, she sustained severe shark bite injuries and was rescued and rehabilitated a second time. After several more months in the wild, Selka was once again returned to the aquarium due to health concerns and several interactions with people. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages this threatened species, deemed her non-releasable. She was transferred to Long Marine Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) in the fall of 2014.

Sea Otter Scientist

During her two-year research sabbatical, Selka provided scientists with a window into the previously unknown sensory and cognitive world of sea otters. She helped researchers understand how wild sea otters search for their prey and acquire enough food to survive in the harsh ocean environment.

Sea otters play a critical role in the health of coastal ecosystems. At UCSC, she contributed to sea otter recovery in other ways.

Strobel and fellow researchers named her Selka, after the selkies, mythical Celtic seal-like creatures that can assume human form on land.  “As a key member of our team, Selka helped us collect some of the first data linking sensory abilities to foraging behavior in sea otters,” says Sarah McKay Strobel, graduate research student at UCSC.

“Selka’s cleverness, combined with her easy-going and inquisitive nature, made her an ideal partner in these behavioral studies.” explains Dr. Colleen Reichmuth “She is a graceful, curious, and endearing creature. We think that the world will love her and we’re so happy to share her remarkable story.”

Selka's New Chapter

Back at the aquarium Selka’s contributions to sea otter science continues. The hope is that she will one day become a surrogate mother like the other five resident sea otters that foster pups as part of the Sea Otter Program.

While she may be on and off exhibit as she settles into her new home, you can visit Selka at the Sea Otter Exhibit beginning today. 

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The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.