A “chonk” sea otter at Monterey Bay Aquarium gained notoriety this week after the aquarium tweeted a photo of the animal in a less-than-slimming pose.
An employee turned a photograph of the otter, named Abby, into a meme Tuesday. The tweet poked fun at the animal’s size, calling her “thicc” and suggesting #bodypawsitivity.
But Christine DeAngelo, the aquarium’s curator of mammals, said the photo was really just taken at a bad angle.
“That’s not blubber or anything,” she said. “It’s just the angle of her hips and the way she’s rolled. She’s one of our most photogenic animals.”
Abby, who is 11 years old and weighs a healthy 46 pounds, was likely waking up from a much-needed nap in preparation to go back to work as a surrogate mother for orphaned sea otter pups, DeAngelo said. She likes lounging in piles of ice, which might explain her soggy fur.
The animal is one of five female sea otters at the aquarium that train pups on basic skills needed to survive in the wild, such as opening clams and mussels and grooming their coats. Stranded or orphaned sea otters are brought in to Monterey Bay Aquarium and bottle-fed until they’re 8 weeks old before they’re introduced to Abby’s enclosure, DeAngelo said.
Once the pups are about 26 weeks old, they are weened and socialized with other young sea otters before being released back into the wild.
Abby herself was a stranded pup rescued and raised at SeaWorld. She was deemed unreleaseable by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2007 because she was raised by humans and hadn’t learned survival skills. But over the years, she’s raised five pups, and a sixth will be brought to her care in January.
When DeAngelo saw the viral tweet of Abby, she knew the photo didn’t do justice to her usual put-together appearance. She is actually very pretty and usually perfectly groomed, the curator said.
“We said, ‘Oh, my gosh, look at her!’ She’s not a big animal.”