Otter who survived 1989 spill dies - FOX 32 News Chicago

Otter who survived 1989 Exxon Valdez spill dies at Shedd Aquarium

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Kenai, one of two remaining sea otters rescued from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in U.S. zoos and aquariums, has been euthanized by staff at the Shedd Aquarium because of progressively deteriorating health and quality of life due to advanced age.

At 23, Kenai exceeded the median life expectancy of sea otters by several years — typically they live 15 to 18 years, a release from the Shedd said. Kenai and another female otter currently living in Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash., were the last two oil spill otter survivors in the nation.

"The past 24 hours have been very difficult for the entire Shedd family, who held a special place in their hearts for Kenai," Ken Ramirez, executive vice president of animal care and training, said in a statement.

"It was a difficult, yet clearly compassionate decision as her quality of life quickly deteriorated over the last several weeks," said Ramirez, who assisted in the otter rescue effort in 1989.

Unlike whales and sea lions, sea otters lack blubber to keep warm and rely on their dense fur and fast metabolisms to survive frigid waters, according to the release.

While rescued adult otters could be rehabbed and released back into the wild, the hand-raised pups lacked survival skills, so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service selected zoos and aquariums to provide homes. On Halloween 1989, Shedd took in four, including Kenai.

"It's been an incredible journey to watch her thrive throughout her years at the aquarium. As she grew older, Kenai became a testament to the emerging field of geriatric veterinary medicine as Shedd's animal health experts cared for her," Jim Robinett, senior vice president of external and regulatory affairs, said in a statement.

Named after the Kenai Peninsula off the Gulf of Alaska, she became a surrogate mother for several of other young rescue otters, including Kiana, an orphan found on an Alaskan beach in 2005.

"Kenai and the surviving otters will always be an incredible reminder of the delicate balance between the living world and the impact that we have on it," Ramirez said in the statement.

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