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THE OTTER SIDE OF LIFE

Otters are wonderful creatures. They never seem to tire of playing and frolicking about in the waters they swim. For them, life is a joy, an adventure to be celebrated and shared with their other otter friends.

Over the years, they have been hunted ruthlessly.* This has made them quite wary of human contact. But sometimes, their curiosity overcomes their fear, and they end up sharing their joy of life with us as well.

So it was one fine sunny day at the Sanctuary. We were sitting on large rocks in the river, gazing at the sunlight sparkling on the surface of the nearby pond, when our eyes were drawn to movement in the water just a few feet away from us. Suddenly, a head popped up out of the water. It was the male otter, and he was looking directly at us. We were overjoyed to see him again. And what a thrill to have him so close!

He stared at us silently for a few minutes, and then stood up in the water, leaving only his feet submerged. Again, he looked and looked and looked some more, and then after rubbing his eyes, looked again, as if he was thinking, “Are those humans there? Why are they just sitting there? And what am I feeling coming from them towards me? Is that...love??!! No, no, no, no, no...couldn't be 'love vibrations' coming from them...that's impossible!!! Let me rub my eyes and take another look (which is exactly what he did—rubbed his two little eyes with his two little paws and then stared at us again). Yup, sure enough, humans emanating love—amaaaaaaziiiiiiiiiinnnngggg!!! This is truly a 'first!' Got to show my little lady this!!!”

And he dove back into the water. We thought he had left, but within just a few seconds, he resurfaced with his little lady friend in tow—two little heads bobbing up and down just above the surface of the water. And, again, you could almost 'hear' their thoughts, their silent communication between them, with the male saying to his lady, “See...I told you so!! Humans emanating peace and love!”

 

 

 

 



 

 

And as if she couldn't believe it either, they both then swam to the shore and climbed out full body—both of them—below the largest tree just a few feet away. They looked and looked and looked...first as us and then towards each other, as if sharing their disbelief! Then, after satisfying their curiosity in full, they both gently slid back into the water again—no hurry, no panic—silently slipping into the water and then playing around, twirling, circling, somersaulting in and out. This went on for some time until they slowly made their way downstream and finally disappeared around the bend of the river. Such a delightful and humorous encounter with our two otter friends!

*NOTE: Otters have been hunted for their fur and because they have been viewed as ‘competitors’ by fishermen since they eat fish, crabs, abalone, and various other types of seafood. Not long ago, they had completely disappeared off the Pacific Coast of North America. But their disappearance led to a crisis in the fishing industry there.

What people failed to realize is that otters also eat sea urchins. With the disappearance of otters, the sea urchin population exploded. Why did this matter? Because the kelp forests of the Pacific Ocean are like the tropical rainforests on land—they are one of Nature’s biodiversity ‘hot spots’ and are the ‘nurseries’ for most commercial fish species in the region.

Sea urchins eat kelp. Without their main predator—the otter—to keep their numbers in check, their overpopulation led to total devastation of the sea kelp nurseries. Stocks of fish species plummeted, and the commercial fishing industry collapsed as a result.

Realizing their mistake, governments passed laws protecting otters from hunting and persecution. After some time, otters returned to Pacific Coastal waters. With the otters back, the sea urchin population came under control. This, in turn, allowed the sea kelp forests to recover and flourish. With their ‘nurseries’ restored, different species of fish returned, reproducing in the area once again, and the fishing industry itself rebounded with the new stocks of fish.

Otters are known as a ‘Keystone Specie.’ This means that an entire ecosystem depends on their presence to keep it alive, healthy and vibrant. Without their presence, the entire ecosystem collapses.

This is just one example of how man’s lack of understanding has led to interference with the Balance of Nature, leading to disaster, not just for the animal kingdom, but for Mankind as well.

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