Great Lakes Aquarium announces death of male river otter Zhoosh
It is with great sadness that Great Lakes Aquarium announces the death of its beloved male river otter. Zhoosh passed away early Saturday morning. He was discovered by the aquarium’s otter keeper during the morning feeding. He was 13 years old.
A preliminary cause of death appears to be gastrointestinal disease. Full autopsy results from the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center are expected within a week.
Aquarium staff first observed a change in Zhoosh’s eating habits and behavior earlier this spring. Several visits to Great Lakes Aquarium’s primary veterinarian in Duluth, followed by visits to the University of Minnesota led to a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Disorder. Initially, Zhoosh responded well to treatment. In recent days, however, aquarium staff observed the river otter becoming increasingly lethargic and displaying signs of illness.
The loss has been devastating to Aquarium staff, some who have cared for Zhoosh for many years. The male river otter came to Great Lakes Aquarium in the year 2000, at the time of its opening. He was found orphaned in Virginia and the Aquarium became his home. He recently celebrated his 13th birthday at the Aquarium’s annual Otter Birthday Party.
“While not a long life in human years, otters in the wild typically live 8 to 10 years. As a rescued orphaned otter, Zhoosh was given many more years than he might have otherwise had,” said education director, Sarah Erickson. “We are grateful for the time that we had to learn from him and smile at his playful antics.”
A curious and charismatic otter to the core, Zhoosh would often play tag with staff, push plums around the exhibit for fun and twist and turn through buckets and toys. He was known for sleeping with a toe in his mouth and making a mess of his den at night. He was the frequent star of photographs.
Last year, Zhoosh and his female counterpart, Anang, received national attention for their artwork. Otter keeper, Tara Jones, introduced painting as a form of enrichment, to stimulate the senses and curiosity of the otters. Jones has worked extensively on innovating new training with the otters. She has shared her results and methods with otter experts from around the world.
Plans for a memorial are pending.