Five months ago, two southern sea otter pups were rescued along the California coast by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Since early July, the pups have been at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, where staff have been helping them learn skills like diving, foraging, and grooming. But while the baby otters are thriving, they still lack something essential: names. Currently they are known as pups 870 and 872. In naming the two pups, the aquarium is asking the public to vote on their favorite name.
No, you can’t choose “Otter McOtterface.” You must pick from a list of five names provided by the aquarium, all of which reference locations along the California coast. The options are Cooper (for Cupertino, California), Watson (for the town of Watsonville, near Monterey, and Port Watsonville where one of the pups was found), Bennett (for Point Bennett on San Miguel Island), Simon (for Simonton Cove on San Miguel Island), and Obi (for San Luis Obispo).
The contest is an effort to generate public enthusiasm about sea otter conservation. Once hunted for their fur, sea otters are still a struggling species, listed as endangered by the IUCN.
The preservation of sea otters is also important to the ecosystem as a whole. A predator of sea urchins, otters keep the urchin population in check, which in turn stops them from wreaking havoc on kelp forests that many marine creatures need for survival and which absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The voting ends on September 28, with the winners announced on September 30. To vote — and to see more pictures of these cute creatures — check out the aquarium’s website.