Featured Image Credit: Michaela Kwoka-Coleman
By Emily Persico
Charlie is an old, old man. He’s experienced so much in his twenty years of life, including the sweet, wild Pacific Ocean, a sad and mysterious abandonment and a cozy sanctuary at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Finally, on March 2nd, Charlie the sea otter experienced something truly unique: A birthday ceremony and a special-order fish cake made just for him and his buds.
The cheerful sound of guests clad in party hats rang through the halls of the aquarium as the staff served up an otterly delicious clam and shrimp cake for the old fellow.
Sea otters typically live around eight to 15 years in the wild. The Aquarium of the Pacific, however, provides their guests with lavish care that promotes long living.
Charlie is the oldest male sea otter of any zoo or aquarium. At the Aquarium of the Pacific, he is closely followed by 19 year old Brooke and 16 year old Maggie.
Their old age does not come as a surprise. Charlie and his otter friends are fed restaurant quality seafood, costing the aquarium around $25,000 per otter each year. Onsite veterinarians also ensure that the otters are in good health, and training programs keep them nice and busy.
“One of the nice things about the program we have here is we train for three reasons: mental stimulation, physical exercise and husbandry,” explains assistant curator of mammals and birds Michele Sousa. “All of these different behaviors add to the longevity of their lifespan.”
Charlie has made it far in life—Much further than nature would have otherwise dictated. The aged otter was abandoned when he was just a day old, his umbilical cord still attached.
Biologists rescued young Charlie, and because he just a pup when he was found and untrained in the ways of the wild, he was unable to be released. Instead, he has lived his life at the Aquarium, educating aquarium-goers and even participating in research at Monterey Bay Aquarium.
“All the things we know about otter hearing comes from Charlie, and that’s just fantastic,” says Sousa.
The fur trade has caused sea otters much suffering in the past, landing them a place on the “Threatened” list. Charlie is doing his part to help us humans better understand and value these cuddly creatures, and Charlie’s twentieth birthday gave us an excuse to do our part in thanking him.
We appreciate you, Charlie. Happy birthday!