A sea otter found abandoned in Alaska at less than 6 weeks old in 1990 was considered the oldest sea otter living in any North American zoo or aquarium when she was euthanized over the weekend, Shedd Aquarium officials said Monday.
Kachemak was 23 years and 6 months, much older than the 12- to 15-year expected life span for sea otters in the wild. She was able to provide scientists with information about geriatric sea otters, including diet, immune systems and blood test results.
"She was one of the most vocal animals we ever had," said Jim Robbinett, the aquarium's senior vice president of external and regulatory affairs. "It was a high-pitched scream that always warranted attention. She was looking for food most of the time, other times it was to play."
Kachemak was euthanized Saturday after the aquarium's animal health team determined they were no longer able to provide her with a comfortable enough setting given her age.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found Kachemak stranded and orphaned on a beach in Kachemak Bay, Alaska, on May 23, 1990. She was just 6 weeks old when she came to Chicago. The aquarium built a special nursery for her before she moved in with the older otters. She later lived in the aquarium's Oceanarium.
"She's very fortunate to have been found because of the remote nature of the location," Robbinett said.
He said Shedd Aquarium got the call to take Kachemak after aquarium scientists worked to rescue sea otters after the Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska's coast in 1989. Because she needed constant care, she was allowed to ride in the cockpit of the plane with Shedd scientists on the flight from Anchorage to Chicago.
The Shedd Aquarium now has four sea otters.