Who doesn’t love watching otters holding hands, playing, and using each other’s tummies as rafts? Sea otters, which live in northern coastal areas of the Pacific Ocean, are iconically adorable animals, their charm makes them great mascots for environmental protection efforts, and their importance to their local ecosystems cannot be understated.
Sadly, sea otters are threatened by pollution, poaching, and commercial fishing, which sometimes leads to baby otters washing up to shore unattended. But thanks to the efforts of aquariums where people are able to care for them around the clock and teach these cute otters life skills, even baby animals that are orphans have a chance of making it to adulthood.
And we get lots of adorable baby otter pics along the way. Scroll down, have a look, and upvote the cutest photos!
Baby sea otters’ fluff isn’t just adorable, it’s practical: they can’t sink because their incredibly dense hair traps air, making them float. But they still have to be taught to swim and groom themselves, which is more difficult for humans to encourage them to do without an adult otter to show them.
Another reason why raising orphaned otters isn’t easy is because they get sick easily due to not receiving antibodies from their mother’s milk, a condition you may be familiar with if you’ve ever had to bottle-feed abandoned kittens or puppies.
Many orphaned otters who are raised through this difficult period by humans are determined by wildlife experts to be non-releasable, meaning they become too trusting of humans to be safe in the wild, and end up having to live in captivity permanently.
One aquarium in California has figured out how to increase the number of baby otters that can be successfully returned to the wild: by letting otters raise them, of course. Now, the first line of action upon taking in an orphaned otter is to give it to an adult female otter. Otters are very social and many of them don’t think twice about raising a pup that’s handed to them.
According to the International Otter Survival Fund, out of the 13 species of otters around the world, the only ones that are not threatened or endangered are North American River Otters, which live just about everywhere in the United States and Canada except for the Rocky Mountains and dry areas.
Some river otters made it into this list too—they’re a little sleeker than fluffy baby sea otters, but just as cute.