PORTLAND - There's a big effort under way to bring sea otters back to the Oregon Coast.

Next week, the Oregon Zoo is hosting Sea Otter Awareness Week.

Its purpose is to educate visitors about the plight of the adorable, yet threatened, animals.

And who better to teach the lesson than Eddie and Thelma, two 15-year-old sea otters who live at the zoo.

Over a century ago, there were hundreds of thousands of sea otters along the West Coast.

But with high demand for their thick soft fur, they were hunted to near extinction.

Sea otters are now protected against trapping and their populations have returned to some areas, but they have yet to return to the Oregon Coast.

Sea otter experts say there are things we can do to help bring them back.

Making sure you don't pour contaminants down the drain ... you can properly take your oil and cleaners and things like that to the hazardous waste facility to properly dispose of them, so they don't end up in the streams and rivers and ultimately in the oceans as well, said Jenny DeGroot, Oregon Zoo s lead sea otter keeper.

Experts hope by offering the creatures a clean and sustainable habitat, they will gradually move back into our area.

As part of Sea Otter Awareness Week zoo keepers will give talks about the otters and show off some of their training skills every day at 11:30 a.m.

It starts September 23rd and runs through the 29th at the Oregon Zoo.

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