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Newly named sea otter Luna makes public debut at Shedd Aquarium

Luna-cy swept through the Shedd Aquarium Friday morning as a tiny chocolate-brown otter made her public debut.

A chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” greeted the orphaned California sea otter, formerly known as “Pup 681.”

“She’s so cute, I don’t even need to talk,” said Tim Binder, the Shedd’s vice president of animal collections, as he announced the otter’s new name, Luna.

RELATED: LIVE: Shedd Aquarium names its rescued sea otter pup

About 100 people were on hand to see the otter frolic in the water, mostly ignoring the muffin-nibbling guests.

Luna was the most popular choice from a list of proposed names that also included Cali, Ellie, Poppy, and Ana. About 32 percent of those who voted online chose Luna — a reference to Half Moon Bay in California, close to where the otter was found earlier this year.

Luna arrived at the Shedd in late October, just five weeks old and weighing six pounds, after being found abandoned on the beach. Staff say they aren’t sure why the pup’s mother abandoned her little one.

Luna has been thriving on a diet of formula, shrimp and clams. Just this week, Luna discovered the little pouch that extends from one foreleg across the animal’s chest.

“When they are foraging, they’ll take pieces of food and stick it in that pouch. So that when they go to the surface, they can have that food to eat,” Binder said.

Luna spent about an hour in the exhibit Friday, diving, playing with toys and grooming herself. But Luna isn’t quite ready for the full-time spotlight.

“She has several more milestones to achieve. The most significant will be incorporating her in with the rest of the [otter] collection,” Binder said. “So we expect that probably some time around spring.”

People gathered to see the new sea otter, “Luna,” at the Shedd Aquarium on Friday. | Brian Jackson/ Sun-Times