03/05/2014 12:03 EST | Updated 05/04/2014 05:59 EDT

Vancouver Aquarium Rescues Emaciated Sea Otter 'Wiffen'

A person tries to touch a Canadian sea otter on June 5, 2012 in the zoo of Amneville, eastern France. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN (Photo credit should read JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/GettyImages)

The Vancouver Aquarium will spend hundreds of volunteer hours and thousands of dollars to save a sea otter found in critical condition.

The eight-year-old sea otter named 'Wiffen' was discovered on a shoreline next to a popular hiking trail near Sooke, B.C. It was emaciated and hypoglycemic. Its liver enzymes were high, and it had a damaged gastrointestinal track and wounded hind leg.

Aquarium staff doubted it would survive the trip to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in Vancouver — but it did. Wiffen is now in intensive care and is being rehabilitated. 

"The first few days, we had a hard time keeping his temperature up. Now we're having a hard time keeping it down, which is a good sign," said rescue centre​ manager Lindsaye Akhurst.

"He's definitely still in such bad shape. We don't want to get too excited. But, you know, the little improvements, it sure does help us a lot."

Wiffen's rehab could cost up to $30,000

The aquarium will spend as much as $30,000 nursing Wiffen back to health, with the hopes of eventually releasing it back into the wild. 

"It is an expensive undertaking, but one we do," said Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena.

The aquarium says the money and time spent saving sea mammals like Wiffen is well worth the educational and research opportunities gained in the process.

It is also important for conservation, since there are only about 5,000 sea otters in B.C.

"It's a very, sort of, animal welfare driven demand. People want to do something for an animal that they see suffering, for whatever the cost," said Haulena.

Sea otter 'Walter' doing well

In October, the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre rescued another sea otter that made headlines. "Walter" was found barely alive and suffering from gunshot wounds to its head and body near Tofino, B.C.

Walter was left blind and had to undergo multiple surgeries, including a partial amputation of its right hind flipper. In January, it was moved long-term care at the aquarium where it will live out the rest of its life. 

"Walter is doing awesome," said Haulena.

"He's had a couple of little problems — some dental problems that we've had to deal with since he's been a the aquarium — but he's very stable, he's adapted very well to his habitat, he's very interactive, he knows how to ask for food."

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