Great Lakes Aquarium announces death of beloved retired river otter

August 14, 2017 3 Comments

With great sadness Great Lakes Aquarium announces the death of its beloved, retired river otter, Anang.  At 20-years-old, she died of natural causes related to her advanced age.

Anang passed away peacefully on Saturday morning in her “retirement quarters” designed specifically for her in the Aquarium’s off-exhibit Holding area.  She was discovered by animal care staff shortly after her morning feeding.

The life expectancy for North American river otters in the wild is typically 8 to 10 years. In captivity, with regular medical care and no risk of predators, they can live 15 years or longer. At age 20, Anang had lived a fuller life than most.

“Anang has been with us for many years. We can take solace in the fact that she lived a full and happy life filled with many ice treats, piles of leaves, and minnows to catch,” said Natalie Riemer, senior animal care specialist and Anang’s primary keeper. “Over the past week or two we noticed her slowing down a bit, but she still had a great appetite and was in good spirits. This is something we expected. She was ready, but in truthfulness we were not. It’s hard to say goodbye to such a sweet icon. She touched many lives and will never be forgotten.”

The loss has been difficult for Aquarium staff, some who have cared for Anang for more than a decade.  The female North American river otter came to the Aquarium in the year 2001, around the time of its opening. She was discovered alone as a juvenile otter in Florida. Young otters typically stay with their mothers in their first year of life and are at risk if abandoned or orphaned.

Anang in her painting studio with Animal Care campers.

Anang served as an otter ambassador on exhibit from 2001 to 2013.  She was moved to a smaller space which was less physically demanding as she aged. She thrived in that space and spent several happy years delighting behind-the-scenes visitors.

In 2012, Anang received national attention for her artwork.  She “painted” as a form of enrichment, marking her canvases with colored paw prints, fur prints and tail swipes. Anang continued to paint in her retirement and many of her pieces are featured in the Aquarium’s gift store, Explorers’ Cove.

The Aquarium’s current exhibit river otters, Agate and Ore, will continue with their regular routine and programming today and in the immediate future. The 4-year-old sister otters have been on exhibit since 2014.

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