Memorializing a fallen critter

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Brook, the otter

Photo by Robin Riggs

Brook, the otter

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The Aquarium of the Pacific is mourning the loss of Brook the southern sea otter, who passed away on Tuesday, Jan. 29. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure by the aquarium’s veterinary team in mid-January. At 21 years old, she was the oldest female southern sea otter at any zoo or aquarium. Wild southern sea otters typically live 10 to 14 years for males and 12 to 18 years for females, but they can live up to 20 years or more in a zoo or aquarium environment. In lieu of the annual Otter Bowl, the aquarium’s staff will host a tribute to Brook and post a video on social media on Sunday, Feb. 3.

Brook arrived at the aquarium in 1998, before the facility opened to the public as one of its original charter animals. She was found stranded as a two-week-old pup in Northern California and was rescued and housed at a marine-mammal center. After going through a rehabilitation program, otter experts determined it was not possible to release her back into the wild, as she had not learned survival skills from her mother the way sea otter pups typically do.

Brook was known for her photogenic looks and regal demeanor, which landed her image on banners, brochures and other aquarium publications and advertisements throughout her life and secured her place in the hearts of the aquarium’s staff, members and the public.

Brook is survived by Charlie, the aquarium’s other senior otter, who arrived at the aquarium around the same time as Brook. Both had been orphaned during 1997’s fierce El Niño storms. At nearly 22 years old (his birthday is in March), Charlie is the oldest southern sea otter living at a zoo or aquarium.

California’s southern sea otters are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Hunting in the 18th and 19th centuries nearly wiped out the entire population, and by 1938, only 50 remained. Conservation efforts have grown the population to nearly 3,000, but these animals still face threats, including ocean pollution and habitat loss.

Aquarium of the Pacific
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