Meet Ozzy and Ola the UK's first and only sea otters!

The UK’s first and only pair of sea otters Ozzy and Ola have officially been introduced as new residents at the National SEA LIFE Centre in Birmingham as part of a global education and conservation programme with SEA LIFE Trust.

The sea otters, who are a rescued male and female pairing*, arrived in to the country last month following an incredible 5,000 mile journey from their former holding in Seward, Alaska and have been settling in to their new, state-of-the-art and purpose built Marine Mammal Rescue Facility in Birmingham. Their residency is one of just three in the whole of Europe and of 17 collectives globally.

Ozzy – or Mr Bishop as he’s become lovingly known – was rescued when he was just two months old from Bishops Beach, Alaska. Weighing 6.3kgs (13.9 pounds) he was underweight, dehydrated and suffering with coat issues, all of which were contributing factors to a later seizure. Now at 2 years old and following his rehabilitation, his inquisitive and somewhat mischievous nature is settling well in to his forever home in Birmingham. He is laid back and loves a good nap!

His soul mate, Ola – also affectionately known as Ms Ranney – was less than a week old when she was rescued back in June 2018 and weighed just 1.86kgs (4 pounds). Found by fishermen near Ranney Glacier face down in the water, she was suffering with mild dehydration and a matted fur coat upon admission to the Alaskan Rescue Center. Ola, whilst a little smaller in size to Ozzy, is now your typical one-and-a-half year old; very active and in to everything – frisbee being her favourite toy!

These endearing creatures are an important poster boy species for conservation and the escalating climate crisis. However, with our world under threat like never before, there are now more orphaned sea otters than the world’s aquariums have room for and their future looks bleak – but Birmingham made space.

At the end of last year, Centre bosses revealed that following a two-and-a-half-year gruelling guardianship application, the financing of care and major investment in a brand-new purpose-built facility over in the United Kingdom to meet strict animal welfare requirements, the United States Fishing & Wildlife Service (USFWS) had finally granted Birmingham’s SEA LIFE Centre a permit to rehome a pair of un-releasable sea otters.

"This is such an incredibly exciting time for us. It’s been a pioneering project for the country, taking global efforts and a collective vision with our conservation partners to protect the world’s oceans and the incredible marine life which lives within. Sadly, an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality can have detrimental consequences to our planet, but this is now our opportunity to open up the reality of a world which feels very far removed from our own. Ozzy and Ola’s residency is a landmark moment for the country and gives us a sense of connection to nature and wildlife from across the globe, highlighting the unconscious impact we’re having so we can start to make small differences. It’s a guardianship commitment with full 360 vision, meaning that monies raised through the sea otters' residency in Birmingham will have a direct and positive impact to environmental efforts on the ground in Alaska through our partners, SEA LIFE Trust.”

Jonny Rudd, Curator at the National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham

Once on the verge of extinction after being hunted for their thick, rich pelt in the 1800s, sea otters remain a seriously threatened species being IUCN listed as endangered in some regions and now have a vital role to play in a ground-breaking marine education programme here, on the other side of the globe.

The hope is Ozzy and Ola will become inspirational guides to becoming better residents of the planet and now have a crucial role to play in the global mission to saving the 'teddy bear' of the ocean.