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Otter Rescued From 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Dies At Shedd

Kenai, a sea otter orphaned during the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the Alaska coast in 1989, spent the next 23 years at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. She was euthanized after suffering multiple organ failures due to old age. (Photo credit: John G. Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez)

Kenai, a sea otter orphaned during the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the Alaska coast in 1989, spent the next 23 years at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. She was euthanized after suffering multiple organ failures due to old age. (Photo credit: John G. Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – An otter orphaned by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 has died after spending the past 23 years at the Shedd Aquarium.

WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports Kenai wasn’t oiled up by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in Alaska, but she was orphaned, and brought to the Shedd.

“Oiled otters required intensive care and cleanup. She was brought to the rescue center because her mother succumbed to the oil, but she was not actually in the oil,” said Ken Ramirez, the animal care vice president at Shedd.

Ramirez had to step in for Kenai’s mom, to teach the otter proper techniques for grooming, which takes up most of an otter’s day.

“Otters are quite active little animals, and it’s not unusual for them to take their little paw, and push the comb away, push the towel away,” he said.

Ramirez said, by surviving to 23, Kenai beat the average otter live expectancy by over 30 percent. In the wild, otters typically live 15 to 18 years.

Ramirez said Kenai taught the Shedd a lot about otter aging, including how to handle otter arthritis, cataracts, and dental work. Kenai was euthanized after suffering multiple organ failures due to old age, leaving a colony of five sea otters at Chicago’s lake front aquarium.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports