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Birthday splash!

The Aquarium of the Pacific’s sea otter celebrated his 22nd birthday, a rare feat, according to experts.

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Birthday splash!

Charlie the sea otter, who is pictured on top of an ice bed with edible ice treats for his birthday March 2.

Charlie the sea otter, who is pictured on top of an ice bed with edible ice treats for his birthday March 2.

Photo by Robin Riggs

Charlie the sea otter, who is pictured on top of an ice bed with edible ice treats for his birthday March 2.

Photo by Robin Riggs

Photo by Robin Riggs

Charlie the sea otter, who is pictured on top of an ice bed with edible ice treats for his birthday March 2.

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Charlie is 22 years old, the ripe age to perhaps graduate college in the spring. But there is no graduation. Instead, Charlie has a different milestone to celebrate– the fact that he became the second southern sea otter on record to ever reach the age of 22 on Saturday, March 2, according to experts from the Aquarium of the Pacific last week.

His age earned him a feature in the Guinness Book of World Records: Wild Things edition, which was released in 2018, according to officials from the Aquarium of the Pacific.

For Charlie’s birthday, aquarium biologists presented him with an edible seafood cake.

In a press release, Brett Long, an aquarium curator, said, “Charlie is nearly double the average lifespan of a wild southern sea otter. Although he doesn’t get around like he used to, he is enjoying life, and we are appreciating every day he is with us.”

Guests were invited to wear birthday hats and sing “Happy Birthday” to Charlie as he enjoyed his favorite foods, treats and gifts.

As a charter animal, Charlie has been with the Aquarium of the Pacific since it first opened. Charlie was orphaned during the El Niño storms of 1997. He came from a sea-otter rescue program when animal experts determined that he could not survive on his own in the wild and needed a home.

Charlie went from being stranded as a pup to contributing to scientific research.

From 2011 to 2013, he participated in a study of how sea otters perceive sound at the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Lab.

The study’s results could inform decisions made by government agencies regarding ocean noise, aquarium experts said. To participate, Charlie learned to enter a specialized acoustic testing environment, listen for sound signals and respond to the researchers, notifying them whether or not he had heard the sound by touching his nose to a target or remaining still.

Southern sea otters reside along the coast of Northern California from just south of San Francisco to the Central California coast. Aquarium experts said they are critical to the kelp forest ecosystem, feeding on the urchins that feast on the kelp.

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, 50 southern sea otters remained. Conservation efforts have grown the population to nearly 3,000, but these animals still face threats, including ocean pollution and habitat loss, experts said.

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Birthday splash!