Wowwing researchers, "Olive," the first California sea otter to survive an oil spill, has gone on to deliver a healthy baby, three years later. The CA Department of Fish and Game said Friday that "Olive the Oiled Otter" was spotted recently swimming on her back with a pup resting on her belly.
Olive, who has an active Facebook following, is "an attentive mother, frequently grooming, nursing and holding her pup," the agency said in a statement.
Olive and her baby are especially interesting to marine biologists since not much is known about long-term effects of health impacts of oil on wildlife. With the thickest coat of any mammal, scientists say oil is especially dangerous to the species. When the coat is damaged by oil, skin is exposed to water and can lead to hypothermia and death since otters lack a layer of blubber.
State wildlife agency veterinarian David Jessup, said that Olive was "circling the drain" when she arrived in 2009 after being resuced from a beach near Santa Cruz. "She was in very bad condition," he said, adding "She had probably been oiled for some period of time and (had) not eaten."
News of the birth was welcomed in the wake of a recent state and federal study that found underwhelming growth of the threatened California sea otter population on the Central Coast. USGS said there are 2,792 sea otters left from Morro Bay to Half Moon Bay (they once ranged from Mexico to Alaska, but were hunted to near-extinction for their fur).
The famous Olive got her name because of an olive oil bath concocted by Jessup, which he'd found could loosen the tar-like oil off the thick fur. The Monterey coast sees regular natural seepage, which researchers believe was likely was the source of Olive's oil.
When the sea otter survivor was was healthy enough to be released back into the wild, she was outfitted with a microchip and transmitter so scientists could track and study her.
Olive in Recovery (2009)
Olive is Expecting (2012)