NEWPORT, Ore. – On Giving Tuesday, the Oregon Coast Aquarium announced a campaign to build a new sea otter holding facility. The facility would allow the aquarium to take in an additional rescued sea otter and facilitate new behind-the-scenes guest experiences.
"Thanks to generous donations from Aquarium supporters, the sea otter holding facility has been fully funded!" the aquarium announced Tuesday.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is one of only thirteen rehabilitation facilities across North America authorized to accept rescued sea otters—but all are at full capacity. The addition of the sea otter holding facility will allow the aquarium to take in a non-releasable injured or abandoned sea otter pup that would otherwise have nowhere to go. An additional sea otter would join the aquarium’s three rescued male sea otters, Nuka, Schuster and Oswald.
Construction on the sea otter holding facility will begin this spring. Thanks to the success of the campaign, construction of the facility will include a behind-the-scenes, interactive design, the aquarium says. The aquarium has plans to develop a sea otter encounter program, which will promote guest education on sea otter natural history and the importance of sea otters to coastal ecosystems.
Over 225 individuals donated to the sea otter holding facility campaign through social media, member mailing, the aquarium website and call-ins. Most were first-time donors.
One anonymous donor found out about the aquarium’s need for the facility on NPR. After hearing the broadcast, the donor contacted the aquarium to sponsor the rest of the funds needed for the facility in memory of the late Dr. Nélio Baptista Barros. Dr. Barros was a pioneer in marine mammal research and an active member of the Latin American research community in the U.S. and abroad. Prior to his passing in 2010, Dr. Barros conducted ecological research with Portland State University and helped coordinate the Marine Mammal Stranding Network in Oregon and Washington.
“We met [Dr. Barros] twice, and he struck both of us as very dedicated to his work,” said the anonymous donor. “Children were drawn to him because of his warmth and his treatment of them as equals. Both times I saw him, he was surrounded by a crowd of children hanging on his every word.”
The addition of the sea otter holding facility is part of the aquarium’s expanded wildlife rehabilitation mission. A future Marine Wildlife Center will increase capacity for marine life rescue and rehabilitation, safeguard the aquarium’s current animal collection, improve conditions for rehabilitation, and create an opportunity for hands-on learning.