Toola, the Aquarium's Celebrated Surrogate Mom Otter, Dies
March 3, 2012
Today, Monterey Bay Aquarium is mourning the loss of what it's calling one of the most important animals in its 28-year history: Toola, a California sea otter.
Toola has served as a surrogate mom to 13 rescued otter pups through the Aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation program. She died this morning at the age of about 15, after more than 10 years in the Aquarium's care.
"She was the first rescued sea otter ever to raise pups that were successfully returned to the wild, and was the inspiration for state legislation that better protects sea otters," and Aquarium press release states.
The Aquarium took Toola in after she was found on Pismo Beach in 2001, suffering from symptoms of infection by a cat-borne parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. Her treatment involved twice-daily meds, so the Aquarium couldn't release her back into the wild.
Instead, she took more than a dozen of the Aquarium's otter pups under her paw, teaching them the survival skills they'd need back in the wild. Five of her foster pups are still thriving in the sea today.
Toola's infection also inspired state legislation to help protect the threatened California sea otter populsation, including the California Sea Otter Fund check-off tax donation, which has raised more than $1 million for sea otter conservation.
Her legacy lives on in the Sea Studios film Otter 501, about a pup brought up by Toola and SORAC's human caretakers.