Young life of wild Hokkaido sea otter documented in crowdfunded book

Yoshihiro Kataoka shows his book on the early life of a female sea otter he calls A-ko.

The early life of a female sea otter born in April 2020 off Cape Kiritappu in Hamanaka, eastern Hokkaido, has been documented in a crowdfunded book published by local resident Yoshihiro Kataoka.

In a rare instance of a so-called fixed-point observation of a wild sea otter in Japan, the book, whose title roughly translates as “A story of A-ko the sea otter born at Kiritappu,” depicts the six months from her birth to when she became independent with the help of 103 color photos taken by Kataoka.

Kataoka, who heads a local conservation NPO focused on tufted puffins, began surveying sea otters around the cape in 2017 and found that two females live there, giving birth alternately.

The female pup he calls A-ko was the fifth born since he started his work, but only the second to reach adulthood.

Closely observing the mother and pup during their months together, Katayama shot scenes of the mother suckling the pup and then their parting, in addition to foraging, playing and resting.

“The number of females is key to the future of a breeding ground. A-ko is a ray of hope. I want everyone to know how they live in the harsh wild world,” he said.

The crowdfunding campaign Kataoka launched to publish the book garnered some 3 million yen ($27,600) from 244 people in about six weeks by the end of April.


Cape Kiritappu