ATLANTA (July 8, 2016) – If you have visited the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery at Georgia Aquarium, chances are you know who Gracie is. She was one of the first southern sea otters when she arrived at the Aquarium just prior to opening in October 2005, endearing her to many over the last decade. At 19 years old, Gracie is now showing signs of becoming an older sea otter and has been receiving individualized care and assistance as her mobility and health reach the geriatric phase.

Animal care and veterinary staff are able to work very closely with Gracie to provide for her in a behind the scenes animal area which is best suited for her and her needs. She now has special dietary needs due in part to her advanced years, but also in part to kidney issues not uncommon in geriatric marine mammals. Gracie partakes in prolonged periods of rest, like most aging animals, and her new space is conducive for all aspects of her care.

Gracie was found abandoned as a pup in Cayucos, Calif. and rehabilitated. She was released, but found two days later, unable to forage on her own. Deemed non-releasable by the Fish and Wildlife Service, Gracie was cared for at a number of zoological facilities prior to making her way to Georgia Aquarium with male sea otter, Oz. She quickly became a favorite among guests, staff, and volunteers as they interacted with her over the past decade. In 2010, three rescued sea otter pups were brought to Georgia Aquarium to join Gracie and Oz, and she has served as a companion to all of them.

“The journey we have been on with Gracie has been nothing short of extraordinary,” said Dennis Christen, senior director of zoological operations, animal training at Georgia Aquarium and has helped lead the team that has cared for Gracie for more than ten years. “After all the rescues and rehabilitation she went through as a sea otter pup, she was brought to Georgia Aquarium and we have been able to watch her grow, learn, and fascinate guests for over a decade.”

An integral part to Gracie’s care is assisting with her grooming needs that are common to all sea otters. Animal care team members support her by cleaning her fur and providing regular visual and physical checks.  Sea otter’s fur is the densest of all mammals at as many as 1,000,000 hairs per square inch; which they groom to maintain its insulating properties for the cold waters they inhabit and general cleanliness. Their incredible flexibility aids in their ability to groom to their entire bodies – Gracie has been experiencing reduced mobility given her age and her animal care teams are able to assist her in reaching every inch of her fur.

She turned 19 years old in February of this year; making her one of the few geriatric sea otters in human care. Her longevity can be vastly attributed to the excellent care she receives at Georgia Aquarium and at the facilities at which she was cared for previously.

“As always, she is receiving phenomenal care but at the same time, as Gracie ages our animal teams have adapted to her care and needs. This has helped us in how we manage not only Gracie’s care, but future geriatric sea otter care,” continued Christen. “She is a true testament to her species and has fostered so much curiosity about sea otters among our guests.”

Four southern sea otters remain on exhibit in Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest; Oz, Brighton, Bixby, and Cruz.

For photos of Gracie, please click here. (All photos credit: Georgia Aquarium/Addison Hill)

ABOUT SOUTHERN SEA OTTERS
Southern sea otters are found in regions consistent of rocky or muddy sea bottoms with dense kelp forests. They must eat 20 to 25 percent of their body weight each day to maintain a normal body temperature. Sea otters are considered a keystone species, they help maintain the health of kelp forests by preying on sea urchins, which can destroy these forests. Sea otters are currently “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and face threats such as entanglement in fishing equipment, oil spills, and shark predation. To learn more about southern sea otters and how to preserve them, please visit Georgia Aquarium’s Animal Guide.

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ABOUT GEORGIA AQUARIUM
Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that contains more than 10 million gallons of water and has the largest collection of aquatic animals. Georgia Aquarium’s mission is to be a scientific institution that entertains and educates, features exhibits and programs of the highest standards, and offers engaging and exciting guest experiences that promote the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. Georgia Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. For additional information, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org