Aquarium keeper acts as a surrogate mother to abandoned pup

Brooklyn, New York – Oct. 29, 2010 – The Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium is happy to announce that Tazo, an orphaned northern sea otter pup found stranded this summer in Homer, Alaska, is doing extremely well in his home at the aquarium and is almost ready to go on exhibit to meet the public.

Tazo was separated from his mother during a storm and was discovered in a Homer resident’s backyard. He was only two or three weeks old when he was found. He was in excellent physical condition but was scared and confused without his mother. The Alaska Sea Life Center took Tazo in for one month and provided initial care before he’d make his permanent home at the New York Aquarium.
Nicole Pisciotta, a ten-year veteran keeper at the New York Aquarium who has worked with the Aquarium’s otters for years, traveled to Alaska to stay with the young pup.  Nicole worked with the staff of the Sea Life Center to save the young pup’s life.  She bottle-fed him a nutritious sea otter formula made of blended clams, sugar, vitamins, and half-half. She also groomed him, an important sea otter behavior, and started to show him basic animal-training techniques.
Once the pup arrived in New York, Nicole and the rest of the aquarium’s animal department staff worked round the clock shifts at the aquarium’s Aquatic Animal Health Center to make sure that Tazo was nursed and groomed on schedule and that his first efforts at swimming and diving were safe.
“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Nicole Pisciotta and the rest of the animal department staff, Tazo is doing very well, and we have a wonderful new addition to our collection,” said WCS’s Jon Forrest Dohlin, Director of the New York Aquarium. “We are very excited about introducing Tazo to the public later this year.”
Tazo is now five months old and has started to take care of himself. Keepers still have him on a strict feeding schedule, but his meal times are down from six times to three times, daily. He’s off formula and is now enjoying solid foods such as squid and clams. His vitamin-rich diet has brought him to 27 pounds, a healthy growth spurt from weighing just four pounds in June.
Keepers say Tazo has a great personality. He is playful, curious, and enjoys attention from the staff. Much of his time is spent playing with his toys such as rubber tire biters and frozen treats. But his favorite activity is grooming. Although he is old enough to groom himself, Tazo enjoys having the keepers towel-dry and comb his fur.
Later this fall, Tazo will go into the aquarium’s Sea Cliffs exhibit, where he will share space with Jacob, a southern sea otter. Northern and southern sea otters are similar in many ways, but southern sea otters are considered a threatened species, native to coastal areas of California. Northern sea otters can be found off the coast of Canada and Alaska.
Tazo’s native Alaska has many fragile lands that WCS works to protect. Sea ice is melting, earlier springs are shifting migratory calendars and nesting habits for several birds, and some Arctic regions are drying significantly, affecting wildlife that depend on fertile Arctic wetlands for sustenance.
WCS is the only conservation group with a long-term, on-the-ground presence in Arctic Alaska, working to monitor climate change in the Arctic, assessing how sea ice is fading from this region, and how these changes endanger polar bears and other wildlife. In addition, WCS researchers study species such as the musk oxen to understand why some populations are in decline.
WCS was instrumental in passing the North Pacific Fur Seal Treaty of 1911, the first international treaty for wildlife conservation.

Tazo is one of many exciting new additions coming to the aquarium within the next year. As part of the aquarium’s A Sea Change initiative launched last year, several new exhibits will open, including Ocean Wonders. This state-of-the-art exhibit will hold an impressive array of marine species, including those that can be found locally in New York. Other new exhibits include Conservation Hall that will be home to colorful fish and corals from around the world, and a refurbished Aquatheater where sea lion demonstrations take place, all of which will re-establish the New York Aquarium as one of the nation’s greatest marine tourism attractions.
A Sea Change is a ten-year partnership between WCS, the City of New York, and the Borough of Brooklyn. It will integrate global marine conservation efforts into these new exhibits at the aquarium, expand the aquatic wildlife collection, improve infrastructure, upgrade animal care and support facilities, and create an enhanced visitor experience.

Barbara Russo: 718-265-3428; cell: 917-494-5493;
Max Pulsinelli:  718-220-5182; cell: 571-218-7601;
Steve Fairchild: 718-220-5189; cell: 914-263-8179;


The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium
opens every day of the year at 10am, and closing times vary seasonally. Admission is $13.00 for adults, $9.00 for children ages 3-12 and $10.00 for senior citizens (65 and older); children under 3 years of age are admitted free. Fridays after 3pm, admission is by suggested donation. The Aquarium is located on Surf Avenue at West 8th Street in Coney Island. For directions, information on public events and programs, and other Aquarium information, call 718-265-FISH or visit our web site at Now is the perfect time to visit and show support for the New York Aquarium, Brooklyn's most heavily attended attraction and a beloved part of the City of New York.

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