Mie: Popular Sea Otter in Aquarium Becomes ‘Hometown Support Ambassador’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
May the sea otter receives an ice cake with lobsters at Toba Aquarium in Toba, Mie Prefecture, on May 20.

TOBA, Mie — May, a popular female sea otter at Toba Aquarium, has become a hometown support ambassador for Toba, Mie Prefecture.

In consultation with the aquarium, the municipality plans to use May to promote the city, such as by having her participate in various online events and using her image for official business cards and merchandise as well as to encourage donations to the city through the furusato nozei tax program.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
May holds a flag that reads, “Hi, I’m May. Nice to meet you.”

The 20-year-old sea otter received an ice cake from her keeper in place of a letter of appointment to the ambassador position on May 20. She quickly devoured the lobsters on the cake after placing them on her belly.

The aquarium has another female sea otter, 16-year-old Kira. There are currently only three sea otters kept in aquariums in Japan. According to the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums, 122 otters were kept in the country’s aquariums at the peak year of 1994, but the number has gradually declined due to such reasons as difficulties in breeding offspring.

The average life span of a sea otter is around 20 years. With a U.S. ban on sea otter exports in principle, sea otters may no longer be seen in Japanese aquariums in a few years.

The city, which considers the two female sea otters a rare sight special to Toba, hopes to use May to publicize the aquarium.