Toola, first foster mother

toola-sea-otter-monterey-bay-aquarium

Adapted from Monterey Bay Aquarium website
by Nancy Carson
Level 2

Toola is lying alone on a sandy beach.
She is very sick.  And she is pregnant.
Volunteers find her on the sand.
They take Toola to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, in California.
The staff at the aquarium think
Toola is about six or seven years old.
They look after her.  Every day they give her pills.
She will not get better.  So, she must stay in the aquarium.  Or she will die.

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A surprise
One morning the workers see Toola swimming.
She is holding something.
It is a dead pup.
Karl Mayer is the head of animal care.
He gets an idea.
Maybe Toola will adopt a new pup.
The pup is only two weeks old.
He has no mother.
Will Toola be his mother?

Toola is a good mother
Toola likes her new baby!
She feeds him milk.
She is very good to the pup.
Later she teaches him
how to open clams.
And she shows him how to find food.

Before Toola comes
Before Toola, workers were mothers to orphan pups.
Later they let the pups go.
But the pups climb on divers in the sea.
They climb on people in boats.
They like people too much.
This is not good for the pups.
The pups also do not learn to dive.
They do not know how to find food.

After Toola
Karl sees how Toola teaches her new pup.
Maybe he can find other mothers for orphan pups.
The new mothers have no milk.
So, the workers wait until the pups can eat food.
Then the workers take the pups to their new mothers.
Some of the mothers do not want a pup.
But Toola always takes a pup.

A new program
Joy, Mae and Rosa are otters
who are now raising orphans.
Together with Toola, the adults raise 40 pups.
Toola raises 13 pups.
Karl is very happy.
His idea becomes a new program.
This program is the first in the world.
No one else lets female otters raise orphans.

Remembering Toola
Toola died on March 3, 2012.
The workers think she was 16 or 17 years old.
Her first adopted pup is still living.
The workers let him go in 2002.
He now has young otters of his own.
Andrew Johnson, of the Sea Otter Research
and Conservation Program, said
“… she made millions of visitors
care more about sea otters.
We will miss her.”
Johnson also said that Toola
is the “most important animal”
in the history of the Monterey Aquarium.
Toola showed the best way to raise otter pups.
Let an otter do it herself!

Sea otters are in trouble
People love the story of Toola.
They want to help otters.
There are only about 2,700 sea otters today.
Before, 17,000 sea otters lived in the oceans.
Pollution harms them.
Fishing nets and sharks also hurt
or kill many of them.
People in California are now donating money
for research on sea otters.