Beloved Aquarium sea otter, Emma, dies at 19

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Photo courtesy Audubon Nature Institute

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Emma, a rescued southern sea otter who arrived at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in 1999, has died.

The Audubon Nature Institute said on its Facebook page that Emma’s health had been declining for the past few weeks, showing symptoms that included loss of appetite and lethargy.

Emma underwent testing and it was discovered she had bladder stones, a circulatory anomaly, and degenerative joint disease.

Following her exam, Aquarium animal staff worked around-the-clock to provide pain relief and medication to keep her as comfortable as possible. Emma’s health continued to decline, and the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize the geriatric otter.

The life span for a southern sea otter in the wild is approximately 12 years. At 19, Emma was one of the oldest sea otters in human care.

“This is a profound loss for the Audubon family,” said Audubon Aquarium’s Managing Director Rich Toth. “For nearly 18 years, we provided a home for Emma after she was rescued in California. She won the hearts of our staff and visitors, and was an ambassador for threatened sea otter populations in the wild.”

Emma was born in 1997 and was found stranded at 5 weeks old on Three Mile Beach in Santa Cruz, California.

She was placed in Monterey Bay’s Sea Otter Rehabilitation and Conservation program to receive 24-hour care from a surrogate human “mom.” She was brought to Audubon Aquarium on June 22, 1999, after she was deemed non-releasable by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Audubon Nature Institute is a leader in animal care and conservation. Southern sea otters are considered endangered and the Aquarium has more than two decades of experience caring for rescued sea otters. Audubon Aquarium is home to one additional sea otter, Clara.