The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Toola was found pregnant and near death, suffering from toxoplasmosis. Shortly after her rescue, Toola gave birth to a stillborn pup.
But at the same time, the aquarium received an orphan pup that was only two weeks old. That's when "Toola's motherhood miracle happened."
The Chronicle reports:
"Toola didn't hesitate. She nursed the orphaned pup like he was her own, taught him to open clamshells with rocks, how to eat a crab without getting pinched, and other tricks of sea otter life.
"That pup, raised by Toola instead of humans, was able to return to the Pacific, where he's now king of a pack at Elkhorn Slough and has fathered countless pups himself." [emphasis mine]
Toola proved, for the first time, that it was possible for a baby to be released into the wild after having been nursed and raised by a foster mother. Prior to Toola, orphaned babies were fed and raised by humans, the result of which was that they became to acclimated to humans to be safely let back into the wild.
Sea otters were hunted to the brink of extinction in the 19th century, and while they are now protected they remain endangered.
I just love stories like this one. Don't you?
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons. Image is not of Toola.