It’s all change at the sea otter exhibit. Wave goodbye to Joy and pup 502, and say hello to Kit and Rosa.
After several months behind the scenes, young Kit is back! We hope you’ve been following her story, Otter U: Kit Goes to College.
Now, just in time for fall semester, Kit takes on a new challenge -- being on exhibit (and on streaming web cam) in front of her legions of admirers.
Kit’s Story Part 7
In the last few weeks, Kit has divided her time between being a companion for young otters waiting for release to the wild, and getting reacquainted with her human caregivers.
Behind the scenes, Kit has become accustomed to isolation from people, so her wild companions don’t learn to associate humans as providers of food. But on exhibit, Kit must learn to trust humans, who are there to provide food, as well as perform medical checks and other necessary interactions.
Chris DeAngelo, our associate curator of mammals, has been working patiently with Kit behind the scenes, slowly rebuilding trust so that Kit feels comfortable in close proximity to a human and being hand fed. Once this was established Kit began to let Chris to touch her belly and chest for the all-important health exams.
Rosa, one of our experienced exhibit otters, joins Kit for her return to the public side of the Aquarium. Rosa’s been behind the scenes, too, serving as a surrogate mom for another stranded pup. Now that the pup is weaned, and sharing time with other juveniles, Rosa is ready to return to exhibit.
Although Rosa is used to spending time with animals of different ages, this is Kit’s first encounter with an adult sea otter since she was separated from Mae at weaning age, many weeks ago. Kit will soon learn that there is a pecking order among otters, and you can’t just help yourself to whatever you like!
Rosa too will have also adjustment period. Her first instinct was to pass a clam to Kit, as if she were a pup. Although that sounds super cute to us, it’s actually not a relationship we want to foster. To be successful as an adult, Kit needs to be independent and take her cues from our otter staff.
Will work for food
If you’ve seen any of our exhibit otter feeding and training sessions over the last few years, then you know that our staff train them to respond to a host of voice commands, hand signals and associated behaviors that we use to keep our animals healthy and mentally stimulated.
Kit's training will start with a few basics, such as stationing – coming to an assigned position for feeding. (Home base, if you like.) When we have multiple otters on exhibit, it helps us make sure they each get their assigned ration of food, according to their individual body weight. Kit’s station will be center stage. While she’s figuring this out, you can probably expect to find her anywhere but there! We'll start to add other cues and behaviors as she gets more familiar with her new surroundings and is calm and not distracted by whatever else is happening around her!
But all in good time. There’s a long way to go before Kit can graduate from Otter U!
Where to, 502?
They grow so fast! The time has come for otter pup 502 to separate from her surrogate Joy and take the next steps in her own Otter U journey. She will begin by spending time with juveniles of a similar age before her final medical exam, which we hope will find her fit and healthy enough to earn a place in a new forever home. Like Kit, 502 cannot be returned to the wild, so she will act as an ambassador for her species. A recent medical exam showed that she is recovering well from the peritonitis she arrived with as a stranded youngster. We’ll keep you posted about her health, and the plans to place her and her new name!