One evening last week I attended a World Premiere in Monterey, California. I wore taupe slacks and a brown top, both by Chico’s. My shoes were by Arche and not sure where the brown stitched jacket came from, because I cut out the itchy label. It was not a red carpet affair and there were no cameras flashing in my face and nobody cared who wore what. I joined about 200 people at the screening of a film called Saving Otter 501, which will open the thirty-second TV season of Nature on PBS on Wednesday October 16th. Check website for times. www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/
The screening was held at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The film spotlights the Sea Otter Research and Conservation program run by the Aquarium. This program works to save injured and orphaned sea otters. You can read more about it on this link. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/sorac.aspx
The film is well acted by all the mammals. The otters were adorable and fluffy. The humans looked good in boats, churning through the swells. The costumes were interesting, especially the ones worn when the humans tried to teach the baby otter to dive. And when they looked like Darth Vader in black capes and black welders masks, to disguise themselves from the otters so that they do not become attached to humans.
It is beautifully filmed and touches the heart. Everyone chuckled when the baby otter refused to be dumped into the tank and hung back in the cage. We smiled in sympathy when she realized there was something else swimming around in the tank and she tried to jump over the edge to escape. Our hearts caught in our throats when we saw a mother otter feeding her voracious pup and getting no food herself and therefore would probably die.
One fact that surprised me was that baby otters have to be taught to do everything to grow and survive. They have to be taught to groom their fur, which makes it water repellant and keeps them warm. They have to learn how to dive which is how they get food from the depths of the ocean. They have to learn to crack shells to get the food out. I thought they were born with these instincts. So it is critical that pups who lose their mothers are rescued and taught how to survive.
Enter the surrogate mother. The film shows how the research team introduces baby otter 501 to Toola, the first surrogate mom. It is amazing to watch how they bond, how she teaches her and eventually how 501 returns to her natural environment, the ocean. (Spoiler alert)
After the screening, a panel consisting of the people in the film and the producer of Nature answered questions. A child asked if 501 still knew her caretakers. They answered, no. Although they tag all the otters they rescue and return so that they can track them, these are wild animals.
This is no ordinary film. It is amazing, touching and should be watched my the whole family. Nature on PBS on Wednesday October 16, 2013