LONG BEACH (CBSLA) — A Long Beach aquarium will work to help rescued sea otter pups recover off the California coast.

The Aquarium of the Pacific announced Thursday that it will partner with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which has been doing this work since the 1980s, for a surrogacy program aimed at helping the threatened species recover.

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The program will work by rehabilitating rescued sea otter pups, having 4-year-old sea otter Millie take them in as her own and then safely release the sea otters back into the ocean. The goal is to help the pups learn critical skills to surviving in the wild.

Millie was a star candidate for the program, since she’s already successful raised a pup.

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“This program not only helps increase the chances of survival for orphaned sea otters in the wild, but also helps ecosystems off the coast of California recover,” said Dr. Sandy Trautwein, Aquarium of the Pacific vice president of animal husbandry.

Three to four rescued pups will be accommodated at the facility each year. There’s also a fundraiser being launched to support the surrogacy program.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Office said California sea otters were listed as threatened in 1977 due to oil spill risk, reduced range, population size and other factors. They are some of the smallest marine animals, according to the USFWS, with females averaging at 46 pounds and males at 64 pounds.

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The program is funded in part by the California State Coastal Conservancy Sea Otter Recovery Grant Program.