In a UK first, two rescued Alaskan sea otters will become residents at the National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham’s new £multi-million marine rescue facility as part of a pioneering education and conservation project in partnership with the SEA LIFE Trust and Alaska Wildlife Rescue (AWR).
Once on the verge of extinction after being hunted for their thick, rich pelt in the 1800s, sea otters remain a seriously endangered species* (IUCN Red Listed) and now have a vital role to play in a ground-breaking marine education programme here, on the other side of the globe.
These endearing creatures are an important poster boy species for conservation and the escalating climate crisis. However, with our world under threat like never before, there are now more orphaned sea otters than the world’s aquariums have room for and their future looks bleak. But Birmingham has made space.
Following a two-and-a-half-year gruelling guardianship application, the financing of care and major investment in a brand new purpose-built facility over in the United Kingdom to meet strict animal welfare requirements, the United States Fishing & Wildlife Service (USFWS) have granted a permit and SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham will be welcoming the very first pair of sea otters to the UK in 2020.
Jonny Rudd, Curator at the National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham said: “This is such an incredibly exciting time for us. It’s been a pioneering project for the country, taking global efforts and a collective vision with our conservation partners to protect the world’s oceans and the incredible marine life which lives within.
“Sadly, an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality can have detrimental consequences to our planet, but this is now our opportunity to open up the reality of a world which feels very far removed from our own. The sea otters arrival will be a landmark moment for the UK and give us a sense of connection to nature and wildlife from across the globe, highlighting the unconscious impact we’re having so we can start to make small differences.
“It’s a guardianship commitment with full 360 vision, meaning that monies raised through the sea otters residency in Birmingham will have a direct and positive impact to environmental efforts on the ground in Alaska through our partners, SEA LIFE Trust and Alaska Wildlife Rescue.”
The sea otters have a remarkable journey ahead of them; travelling over 5,000 miles by land and air before touching down at Birmingham Airport. In a milestone move, the project has been granted permission for border inspection to take place in Birmingham.
Following a police escort, the precious cargo will go in to quarantine and settle in to their new state-of-the-art and temperature controlled facility in Birmingham, which will replicate their natural habitat in the wild and give the sea otters a safe sanctuary for the rest of their lives.
The hope is they will be our inspirational guide to becoming better residents of the planet and ultimately, have a crucial role to play in the global mission to saving the teddy bear of the ocean.