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Whiffen, rescued otter, will be expensive to feed while recovering at the Vancouver Aquarium

Dana Bowen and Ben Bulmer, Special to 24 hours

He’s supposed to eat the equivalent of 25% of his body weight and at $20 a kilo that is going to add up.

Still, according to Vancouver Aquarium vet Martin Haulena, the food tab of a little wounded sea otter under his care is worth every penny.

Whiffen is receiving 24-hour care at a Vancouver rescue centre ever since he was discovered washed ashore and near death last week on Whiffen Spit near Sooke, B.C.

The Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre couldn’t put an exact cost of the rescue and rehabilitation, but acknowledged it was an expensive venture.

“They tend to eat things that are very expensive,” Haulena said, adding that seafood and shrimp make up a majority of an otter’s diet.

“He’s supposed to weigh 40 kilos and we’re looking at (food) that is $20 a kilo,” he said.

However, Haulena dismissed the expense of such rescues, saying it was responding to public demand and was also an opportunity to learn more about the mammals. It is estimated there are only a few thousand remaining in the wild.

“We don’t know a lot about sea otters,” Haulena said. “We learnt a lot from these guys. We’re going to try our best with Whiffen and he’s going to offer us a lot.”

Despite the cost and effort going into Whiffen’s recovery, he is still in critical condition, and currently receiving antibiotics among many other drugs for various issues, including a bone infection. Haulena said that in the best-case scenario, Whiffen is expected to spend at least another six to eight weeks at the rescue centre before hopefully going back to the wild.

Out of the estimated 100 to 150 animals the rescue centre takes in each year, most of those are harbour seals. Out of the 72 seals rescued last year, 60 of those made it back into the wild.

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