Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- A sad day at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth as keepers say goodbye to Zhoosh, the river otter.
Officials at the aquarium say the otter passed away early Saturday morning. He was 13 years old.
A preliminary cause of death appears to be gastrointestinal disease. Full necropsy results from the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center are expected within a week.
Aquarium staff first observed a change in Zhoosh’s eating habits and behavior earlier this spring. Several visits to Great Lakes Aquarium’s primary veterinarian in Duluth, followed by visits to the University of Minnesota led to a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Disorder.
Staff at the aquarium say initially, Zhoosh responded well to treatment. In recent days, however, aquarium staff observed the river otter becoming increasingly lethargic and displaying signs of illness.
Aquarium staff say the loss has been devastating. The male river otter came to Great Lakes Aquarium in the 2000, at the time of its opening.
He was found orphaned in Virginia and the Aquarium became his home. He recently celebrated his 13th birthday at the Aquarium’s annual Otter Birthday Party.
“While not a long life in human years, otters in the wild typically live 8 to 10 years. As a rescued orphaned otter, Zhoosh was given many more years than he might have otherwise had,” said education director, Sarah Erickson. “We are grateful for the time that we had to learn from him and smile at his playful antics.”
Last year, Zhoosh and his female counterpart, Anang, received national attention for their artwork. Otter keeper, Tara Jones, introduced painting as a form of enrichment, to stimulate the senses and curiosity of the otters.
Plans for a memorial for Zhoosh are pending.
Posted to the web by Krista Burns