Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Washington
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

VanBlaricom, G.R., T.F. Belting, and L.H. Triggs. 2015. Sea otters in captivity: Applications and implications of husbandry development, public display, scientific research and management, and rescue and rehabilitation for sea otter conservation. Pages 197-234 in S.E. Larson, J.L. Bodkin, and G.R. VanBlaricom (editors). Sea otter conservation. Academic Press, Waltham, Massachusetts USA. 447 pages.


Studies of sea otters in captivity began in 1932, producing important insights for conservation. Soviet (initiated in 1932) and United States (1951) studies provided information on captive otter husbandry, setting the stage for eventual large-scale translocations as tools for population restoration. Early studies also informed effective housing of animals in zoos and aquaria, with sea otters first publicly displayed in 1954. Surveys credited displayed otters in convincing the public of conservation values. After early studies, initial scientific data for captive sea otters in aquaria came from work initiated in 1956, and from dedicated research facilities beginning in 1968. Significant achievements have been made in studies of behavior, physiology, reproduction, and high-priority management issues. Larger-scale projects involving translocation and oil spill response provided extensive insights into stress reactions, water quality issues in captivity, and effects of oil spills.