Charlie, the oldest southern sea otter living at any aquarium or zoo, has died, officials at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach said in a solemn announcement on Monday. He was 22 years old.
“It is with a heavy heart that we share the news that our sea otter Charlie passed away this morning,” the aquarium tweeted Monday afternoon.
It is with a heavy heart that we share the news that our sea otter Charlie passed away this morning.
Charlie turned twenty-two years old on March 2 and was the oldest living southern sea otter at any zoo or aquarium. pic.twitter.com/AVXib1g7Bn
— Aquarium of the Pacific 🐋 (@AquariumPacific) April 22, 2019
The beloved marine mammal was “active and alert” until his passing, though he was being carefully monitored by staff because he had shown signs of slowing down, a news release from the aquarium stated.
A cause of death was not immediately revealed.
Charlie was just the second sea otter on record to reach the age of 22, officials said. Last year, he was featured in the “Guinness Book of World Records: Wild Things” edition.
On March 2, the aquarium threw a bash to celebrate Charlie’s 22nd birthday, marking the special occasion with a seafood birthday cake.
Thank you to everyone who attended Charlie's 22nd birthday party today! The handsome birthday boy had a great time feasting on all his birthday treats. 🥰
— Aquarium of the Pacific 🐋 (@AquariumPacific) March 3, 2019
Southern sea otters typically live 10 to 14 years in the wild, but those who reside in a zoo or aquarium tend to have longer lifespans — up to 20 plus years, according to the release.
Charlie arrived at the Aquarium of the Pacific before its opening in 1998, after being rescued the previous year. He was orphaned amid the El Niño-fueled storms of 1997 and was among facility’s first animals.
Though known primarily for his role as an animal ambassador, Charlie also contributed to scientific research, becoming the first sea otter ever to voluntarily give a blood sample without sedation, the release read.
And between 2011 and 2013, he participated in a study at UC Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Lab that looked at how sea otters perceived sound.
Charlie was remembered for his intelligence and a disposition described as “easy-going.” It was not uncommon to see him relaxing and sucking his paw while on exhibit, officials recalled.
He is the second southern sea otter to pass away this year at the Long Beach aquarium. In January, the facility said goodbye to Brook, who was 21 years and the oldest female southern sea otter at a zoo or aquarium.
California’s southern sea otters continued to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Nearly the entire population was wiped out due to hunting in the 18th and 19th centuries, and only 50 remained by 1938, according to the release.
Today, the population has grown to almost 3,000 thanks to conservation efforts, though the aquarium notes the mammals still face myriad threats, such as ocean pollution and habitat loss.
In memory of Charlie, the aquarium is raising money to support the aquarium’s animal care fund and staff. More information can be found here.