IUCN Ambassador discovers the otter world

29 July 2011 | News story

IUCN Ambassador Alison Sudol is in for a rare treat this weekend. Together with IUCN experts, she will be visiting California’s Sea Otters to learn about the threats they face and find out what can be done to help their populations grow.

American singer Alison Sudol is often described as one of the most talented and promising musicians today. She is also passionate about the environment. As a Goodwill Ambassador to IUCN, she uses her music to inspire young people to get involved in conservation.

Guided by experts from IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) Otter Specialist Group, she will visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation programme, which studies Sea Otters and helps save their declining populations, followed by a visit to the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center, which provides state-of-the-art research on the species. She will also get the chance to have a closer look at the animals during a boat trip around the Elkhorn Slough and Moss Landing harbor, where California Sea Otters congregate.

"This is the first field trip I've done as Goodwill Ambassador for IUCN, and I am fidgety with excitement like a little girl,” says Alison Sudol. “I have always loved otters but have never had the chance to meet them up close. So on a purely selfish level, this is a great treat. However, I have also discovered that California Sea Otters have been stuck in recovery for some time now. Their numbers are still not growing as they should, despite efforts to protect them. Part of this trip is to learn what exactly is continuing to threaten the otter population, what impact this has on the surrounding marine environment, and what I (we!) can do to help. And then, of course, to see if one of them could be persuaded to let me give it a snuggle!”

The Sea Otter is the smallest marine mammal whose dense fur made it a major target of the fur trade in the 1800s, pushing it close to extinction. Although its populations have since recovered, it is still classified as Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, and faces threats including oil spills and other forms of pollution.

Did You Know?
Sea Otters have learned to use tools to help them eat. Because their diet consists of shellfish, they have learned to use rocks to bash open the shells. Sea Otters can often be seen floating on their backs with a rock on their stomach, bashing a clam or mussel against the rock.

Click here to learn more interesting facts about Sea Otters.