We've been away, as the deafening silence on the blog in early August might indicate. But we've been busy enjoying ourselves, far from the madding crowd...
And this is a picture of Tanu, the sea otter, at the Vancouver Aquarium. Tanu was part of Ros's birthday present this year, as I had arranged for a 'sea otter experience' for the pair of us, given Ros's love of sea otters.
The experience starts with a behind the scenes talk about sea otters, where they live, what they eat, what issues they encounter, and you get to find out some interesting things, such as, a sea otter has more individual hairs per square inch than a human has on their entire body, making their fur extremely soft and thick.
That turned out to be pretty bad news for the sea otter, as fur traders rapidly discovered this, and hunted them pretty close to extinction. Fortunately, before it was too late, they became protected, and whilst they are nowhere near as prevalent as they once were, they are rebounding to a degree. They rely on that fur because, without blubber, they have no other way of keeping the cold out, and the Bering Sea and North Pacific are seldom anything other than cold.
Naturally, sea otters eat seafood, floating on their backs whilst they rip crustaceans and the like to bits, and using rocks to break open the shells of clams and other bivalves. I was surprised to find that, if a sea otter finds a really good stone, it can keep it in a sort of fur pouch in its armpit behind its front paws.
Our next experience was to visit the marine mammal kitchen, where we learned about how you keep sea otters amused with toys, varying them from day to day, and what you feed them. They may be cute, but they're expensive, eating squid, shrimp and scallops. It would be fair to say that Ros was slightly envious of the quality of their diet...
So, we knew a lot more about sea otters. But what we really wanted to do was meet one, and we were shown up to the exhibit and, whilst Tanu was the subject of the 'Sea Otter Talk' at front of house, we were being introduced to Elfin in the back for feeding time.
You aren't allowed to get too close to Elfin, for a whole bunch of really good reasons, but feeding him was tremendous fun, as he floats around looking adorable, and you get to toss him bits of squid, or shrimp. Elfin can strip the casing of a shrimp rather more effectively than I can, and watching him go to work on his food rather gave me an appetite too.
But sadly, that was the end of our 'experience'. I did buy Ros a mug with sea otters on it, a coaster with sea otters on, and a fridge magnet... with sea otters on, as a momento of our trip.
One day, we'll go and see them in the wild...