Oh my goodness! Have you guys seen this?!?!?!?!! You probably ALL know how I feel about animals in captivity, forced to perform for crowds on a daily basis, but this feels different to me.

Nurtured by Nature, located in the rural hills of Valley Center, CA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that was formed by husband and wife team, Kevin & Wendy Yates, after Southern California wildfires destroyed their home and the surrounding area in 2003. Wanting to give back to the community that helped them get back on their feet, they started Nurtured by Nature. Their program provides a once in a lifetime experience to children in (like those in the Make-A-Wish program) need through individual animal encounters at their facility. And the encounter that most people want, is with an otter.

Their website says the purpose of Nurtured By Nature is to:

  • Foster hope and well-being to children with life-threatening to terminal illness through physical interactions with nature.
  • Promote a healthy life outlook and healing for children who have suffered severe emotional trauma through physical interactions with nature.
  • Inspire a bond between humankind and animals, promoting preservation.
  • Create innovative and sustainable conservation projects.

Of the 13 species of otter, only the North American River Otter, is not in trouble. The Asian Small Clawed Otter is considered vulnerable (one step below endangered) and some estimate that there are fewer than 5,000 remaining in the wild.

At NBN, all Asian Small Clawed Otters that participate in the encounters are born and raised at the facility from captive born parents that were rescued from two different zoos (2 from Europe and 2 from North America). And as for the other animals, they were either born there as part of a conservation breeding program, are surplus from other zoos (which means that they had more of one species than needed- I consider that a rescue), and the others are rescues from breeders, research facilities, or confiscated animals from different State Departments.

But, regardless of how the animals got there, Nurtured by Nature staff make sure they are all well cared for both physically and emotionally! They work closely with two veterinarians and rely on the 30 plus years of professional exotic animal experience of their president as well as the 25 volunteers who come from the veterinary and zoological worlds.

The proceeds from public otter swim encounters go directly towards caring for the animals and funding the free programs provided to qualifying children visiting from organizations like Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Nothing in life is perfect. In an ideal world, Asian Small Clawed Otters would ONLY live in the wild and wouldn’t be in danger. But that’s not where we find ourselves. The people at NBN KNOW that these animals do not make good pets and should ideally be in the wild. They never withhold food to make an otter do something (like tricks or getting into the pool) and all swim interactions are voluntary and initiated by the otters.

What do you think? Is this the same thing as keeping animals in cages at the zoo? Is it the same thing as holding an orca in a tank at Sea World? I’d love to know your thoughts…but let’s just keep them civil as always.


XO- Erin

Source: Nurtured by Nature