Mary Heathcote’s Dreams Comes True When Meeting the UK’s Only Sea Otters

'Otter-holic', Mary Heathcote Meets the UK's First and Only Sea Otters

Mary Heathcote, a self-professed ‘otter-holic’, has had her dreams come true this week as she met the UK’s first and only sea otters at SEA LIFE Birmingham. Mary, who was brought to tears by the experience, has been obsessed with otters for over 60 years and has more than 500 pieces of memorabilia related to the species in her home.

Mary with a few items from her huge collection

A self-professed ‘otter-holic’ has had her dreams come true this week, as she met the UK’s first and only sea otters, Ozzy and Ola, at SEA LIFE Birmingham.

Mary Heathcote, 70, originally from Yorkshire but now residing in Somerset, confessed to having an over 60-year love affair with the adorable animals, dating her obsession back to the 1960s.

Since then, Mary has worked tirelessly alongside wildlife academics to help with river surveys and further conservation of otters in the UK. In her lifetime, she has seen the otter population in the UK go from endangered, with dwindling numbers, to thriving – to the extent that there are now otters in nearly every county of the country.

But her otter obsession doesn’t stop there. Mary estimates her home is filled with over 500 pieces of otter memorabilia, from kitchenalia, jewellery, clothing, ornaments and even a 6ft wooden otter statue in her garden.

Mary has travelled up and down the country and all across the world in search of otters, visiting the Isle of Mull in Scotland three times a year, a hotspot for thriving otter communities.

However, it has been a lifelong dream to meet a certain species of otter, namely sea otters, and early this week, SEA LIFE Birmingham made that dream come true.

Mary seeing her friends for the first time

During her visit, Mary ventured through SEA LIFE Birmingham, coming face to fin with fish and penguins before finally arriving at the otter enclosure and realising her dreams.

Meeting Ozzy and Ola, Mary was able to feed the otters herself, as well as even shaking paws with the approachable otter.

Mary shaking her new friends paw

Mary said, “I honestly can’t believe this has actually happened; it’s like all my Christmases and birthdays have come at once. I’ve been all over the world looking for sea otters, and I never dreamed I would be able to see one in real life.

“The first time I saw any species of otter was in 1991, and I was in tears! I’ve been in love with the animals ever since I was young. I’ve got so many different otter items in my house. My husband, David, said around 20 years ago if I buy one more otter, he’s leaving me – we’re still together, so I guess I called his bluff.

“Meeting Ozzy and Ola was genuinely a dream come true. I welled up when I first saw them. To come this close to these amazing creatures was remarkable; I even got to shake their paws!”

Amy Langham, General Manager at SEA LIFE Birmingham, added, “It was incredible to witness Mary meeting our sea otters for the very first time. She’s dedicated her life to these animals, so it’s amazing to be able to give her something she’s dreamt of for such a long time.

“Ozzy and Ola were rescued off the coast of Alaska a few years back before undergoing rehabilitation, but unfortunately, they were deemed to be un-releasable. We were keen to give the playful pair a forever home, so we went through a gruelling guardianship application to be able to relocate them to SEA LIFE Birmingham in 2020 – where they became the UK’s very first and only sea otters.

It’s no surprise Mary has never seen one in person; their natural habitat is coastal waters in Alaska and British Columbia, so it’s very rare to spot them.”

For further information and to visit Ozzy and Ola for yourself, please visit the SEA LIFE website here:

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Mary having a chat with her new aquatic friendMary Heathcote's Dreams Comes True When Meeting the UK's Only Sea Otters 2

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