Shedd otter dies at 23; was oldest in N. American zoos
BY SANDRA GUY Sun-Times August 26, 2013 8:08PM
In this Oct. 27, 2009 photo provided by the Shedd Aquarium, Kachemak, left, a twenty three and a half year-old Sea Otter, interacts with trainers at the aquarium in Chicago, Ill. The Shedd Aquarium euthanized Kachemak who was considered the oldest sea otter living in any North American zoo or aquarium last week. Scientists say she exceeded her life expectancy by several years. She was the first sea otter that the Shedd Aquarium raised from infancy.(AP Photo/Shedd Aquarium, Brenna Hernandez) ORG XMIT: CX102
Updated: September 29, 2013 6:33AM
The first sea otter that Shedd Aquarium raised from infancy and the oldest in any North American zoo or aquarium, Kachemak [KATCH-mak], had to be euthanized because she suffered the afflictions of old age: severe arthritis in her spine and hips that interfered with her nerves, making it difficult for her to move around or even relieve herself.
“We concluded it was going to be impossible to keep her functioning at a high quality of life without continual medications,” said Aquarium spokeswoman Andrea Smalec.
Kachemak was 23 years and 6 months old, compared with the 12- to 15-year expected life span for sea otters in the wild.
The Shedd has set up a memorial on its Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/sheddaquarium — for those who want to post their thoughts and remembrances.
Kachemak, who was euthanized Saturday, got special attention from the start.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had found Kachemak orphaned and stranded on a beach along Kachemak Bay in Alaska, on May 23, 1990, and brought her to the Shedd. She got to ride in the cockpit of a cargo jet on the Anchorage-to-Chicago flight because she needed constant care.
When she arrived at the Shedd Aquarium as a 6-pound, 6-month-old pup, her caregivers built a special pup rehab space just for her in the aquarium’s original galleries, said Ken Ramirez, executive vice president of animal care and training.
Kachemak grew into a 45-pound, 5-foot-long otter.
“For those of us who remember a tiny fluffball with ear-piercing vocalizations, it’s hard to believe that Kachemak is now a senior citizen,” said otter team leader Indya Watts, prior to the euthanization.
Yet Kachemak provided scientists with information to the very end — about geriatric sea otters, including diet, immune systems and blood test results.
The Shedd now has four sea otters — females Cayucos, age 2; Mari and Kiana, both 8 years old, and the sole male, Yaku, age 13.