This floofy sea otter pupper was just 1 week old when she was found stranded and alone near Port San Luis in San Luis Obispo County on Jan. 17.
Her rescuers searched for her mother, to no avail. She wouldn’t be reunited with her lost family, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services said she could not be released safely back into the wild.
A search for a new home began. If one wasn’t found, she faced euthanasia.
Fast forward two months. Mara is now receiving care at her new home at the Georgia Aquarium where she has toys, fish to eat and is swimming on her own. She’ll soon have a new playmate too, called Gibson.
Gibson shares a similar life history.
He was about 3 weeks old when he was found March 12 near the Carmel River. He had been separated from his mother in a large storm. Again, rescuers searched for his mother. This time, she was visible and calling for her pup, but according to rescuers, the storm surge made it near impossible.
He too faced euthanasia.
Luckily, Georgia Aquarium staff were already in California preparing to take Mara back to her new home. So, they agreed to take Gibson as well, according to Paige Hale with the aquarium.
Gibson is still being bottle fed.
Hale said the aquarium was selected because of its ability to provide around-the-clock care to the small mammals.
“To get the pups back to Atlanta as quickly and with as little stress as possible, the animal care and veterinary staff flew them directly from Monterey, California, to Atlanta on a private jet,” Hale said in a blog post about the efforts.
“With the otters’ health and well-being in mind, the jet was cooled to approximately 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit and supplied with plenty of ice to keep these cold-weather mammals cool,” Hale said.
For now, the two are cared for behind the scenes away from the public to adjust to their new surroundings. Eventually, they’ll join an exhibit in the Cold Water Quest gallery with other sea otters.
“Both Mara and Gibson will be ambassadors for their endangered species and will provide millions of guests the chance to make a connection and learn more about them,” Hale said. “Through this connection, it’s the hope that millions will produce a deeper understanding and respect for these animals and want to preserve their natural environment for years to come.”
Multiple rescue and rehabilitation organizations helped with Mara and Gibson, including the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Hale said there are no fees involved with the rescue of an animal to give it a second chance at life, “but we have taken on the lifetime of costs associated with caring for these amazing animals.”