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Cinder The Orphaned Otter Makes It To SeaWorld San Diego And Is ‘Otterly’ Cute

Cinder is a spunky northern sea otter being taken care of at SeaWorld San Die...

Photo by Shalina Chatlani

Above: Cinder is a spunky northern sea otter being taken care of at SeaWorld San Diego. She's playing in the SeaWorld nursery in this photo taken on Sept. 12, 2019.

San Diego has welcomed a new baby into its care. Cinder, a 5-week-old orphaned northern sea otter, was abandoned in Alaska, but now she's being rehabilitated at an otter nursery at SeaWorld.

The nursery, just off to the side of the dolphin pool at SeaWorld, might be difficult to spot. That is — unless Cinder is in the middle of feeding time.

Listen to this story by Shalina Chatlani.

If that's the case, Cinder is likely tapping on the glass walls of her toy-filled kiddie pool, shrieking at high-pitch, and doing flips in the water. In other words, you won't miss her.

Baby otter care much like human babies

Cinder feeds every three hours. On her menu is a lukewarm cocktail of Pedialyte mixed with pulverized shrimp and clams.

Her caretaker, Bill Hoffman, is watching intently. He's a curator at SeaWorld.

"Make sure (the food is) easy to digest, cause she’s got a young tummy," Hoffman said. "Just like you would with a human baby, we introduce different types of food not all at once. So one item at a time. Once she adapts to eating the clams and the shrimp we’ll add another type of food, maybe squid or a type of fish called capelin."

Photo by Shalina Chatlani

Cinder the otter is playing in her nursery at SeaWorld in this photo taken Sept. 12, 2019.

Cinder was separated from her mom near Homer, Alaska and was found squished up against some rocks. Hoffman said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided Cinder ought to be rehabilitated here at SeaWorld San Diego.

"An otter this young that’s separated from its mom and has to be handled and raised by humans is not going to be a good candidate to be re-released," he said. "They would not be able to handle themselves in a wild environment."

SeaWorld caretakers essentially take on the role of the otter's mother. But, Hoffman said Cinder came to them fairly advanced. She was already eating some solid food, and she's grooming her fur.

Cinder will soon be with other otters

Hoffman says SeaWorld is equipped to rehabilitate otters and has been doing it for decades. Four southern otters — Coco, Mocha, Clover and Pumpkin — were rescued as pups and raised at SeaWorld.

"This facility was built to take care of otters and designed to display otters for educational purposes but also raise otters in this nursery, so everything you see was made with a specific goal in mind," said Hoffman.

Coco, the southern sea otter, is hanging around the SeaWorld pool so a caretaker will give her a clam in this photo taken Sept. 12, 2019.

He adds that otters can be somewhat shy animals. But, the caretakers here have gotten used to that.

"You have to learn different subtle behavioral signs with different behaviors," Hoffman said. "Sea otters naturally mask their behavior. So, we have to recognize when they are just being otters."

He said SeaWorld has rescued more than 36,000 marine mammals since it opened 55 years ago. Officials say visitors may be able to take a peek at baby Cinder playing with her toys through the nursery windows as early as next week.

Hoffman said it will be some time until the baby is introduced to the adults and eventually added into the bevy.

Reported by Shalina Chatlani


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Photo of Shalina Chatlani

Shalina Chatlani
Science and Technology Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover all things science and technology — from the biotech industry in San Diego to rooftop solar energy on new homes. I'm interested in covering the human side of science and technology, like barriers to entry for people of color or gender equity issues on biotech boards.

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