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Otter saved from Exxon spill euthanized at Shedd

Photo/John G. Shedd Aquarium/BrennHernandez.

Photo/John G. Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez.

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Updated: November 12, 2012 11:56AM

Kenai, one of the last two surviving sea otters rescued from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, was euthanized Tuesday at the Shedd Aquarium.

Shedd officials said Kenai’s health deteriorated quickly over the last week, and they made the decision to euthanize the 23-year-old otter, who far outlived the average 15- to 18-year lifespan for an otter.

“The vet staff noticed over the last week that her energy level was very low and did some tests, which indicated that she was failing,” said Andrea Smalec, a spokeswoman for the Shedd Aquarium.

Smalec called Kenai a “survivor” and said her otter’s life provided scientists with an opportunity for research.

“She’s got a wonderful story, not only from the experience with the oil spill, but in the emerging area of geriatric care,” Smalec said. “In the last few years, she’s had cataracts and even a root canal.”

Kenai came to the Shedd in 1989 as a pup after being rescued from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The environmental disaster leaked 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound, killing 2,000 otters.

Kenai and another female otter, which is living at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash., were the last two Valdez spill otter survivors.

The Shedd also had taken in three other otters from the Valdez spill, all of which have died.

Kenai was a surrogate mother to some of the five otters at the Shedd, some of which were rescued as pups from Alaska and California.

“The past 24 hours have been very difficult for the entire Shedd family, who held a special place in their hearts for Kenai,” Ken Ramirez, executive vice president of animal care and training, said in a statement. “It was a difficult, yet clearly compassionate decision as her quality of life quickly deteriorated over the last several weeks.”

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