Shedd star Luna celebrates Sea Otter Awareness Week

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Luna, the sea otter pup rescued off the coast of California in 2014, is celebrating Sea Otter Awareness Week from Sept. 20 - 26 at the Shedd Aquarium as she nears her first birthday. She is also nearing her first anniversary of being in the Shedd's care.

PHOTOS: Shedd Aquarium Sea Otters

Luna was brought to Chicago after being found on Coastaways Beach between San Mateo and Santa Cruz on Sept. 30, 2014 by a passerby and rescued on Oct. 1 by Monterey Bay Aquarium. Abandoned by her mother, she was brought to the Shedd where she received round the clock care from specialists who, beyond feeding and grooming her, helped teach her swimming and otter behavior and readied her to meet the other sea otters in her new habitat. A tiny ball of fluff, she quickly captured the city's attention and affection.

PHOTOS: Luna as sea otter pup 681 at the Shedd Aquarium in 2014

Now, a year later, Luna weighs about 30 lbs., on pace to match the average weight of a full-grown female otter. She also now opens shellfish on her own and has become comfortable with all the otter habitats at the aquarium. Shedd trainers say she's known to be quite playful and fond of toys, and gets along swimmingly with the other sea otters in their care.

VIDEO: Pup Luna plays at the Shedd Aquarium

Luna's rescue helped bring some initial attention to the importance of protecting sea otter populations, and now as part of Sea Otter Awareness Week she joins the other four female otters at the Shedd - Mari, Kiana, Cayucos and Yaku - in once again directing attention to the conservation of her species.

VIDEO: Rescued sea otter pup makes her home at the Shedd Aquarium

Southern sea otters like Luna are a keystone species, Shedd officials say, playing a disproportionately large role in the health of their ecosystem. They have been considered a threatened species since 1977, and the California sea otter population remains vulnerable despite state and national efforts.
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