Slam-dunking sea otter Eddie dies in Oregon Zoo at age 20

Oregon Zoo's sea otter Eddie died on Thursday (Dec 20) at the age of 20. PHOTO: OREGON ZOO
Oregon Zoo's sea otter Eddie died on Thursday (Dec 20) at the age of 20. PHOTO: OREGON ZOO

In 2013, he became one of the world's most beloved sea otters when a video of him dunking a basketball went viral, garnering more than 1.7 million views on Oregon Zoo's YouTube channel. His keepers had trained him to do so, as therapy for his arthritic elbow joints.

On Thursday (Dec 20), at the ripe old age of 20, Eddie the sea otter was humanely euthanised, the Oregon Zoo said in a statement on their website.

Age finally caught up with him and he was put down due to his declining health.

Eddie was considered one of the oldest sea otters in the world, as male sea otters seldom live past 15 years, the Oregon Zoo said.

The sea otter was orphaned as a pup along the California coast in 1998, and was taken to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's rescue and care programme for rehabilitation.

Deemed non-releasable by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, he was taken to the Oregon Zoo in 2000, where he was a favourite till his death.

Even last year, as a geriatric sea otter, he was able to dunk a toy basketball through a miniature hoop.

Ms Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo's marine life area, said that Eddie was a feisty character, adding: "He got along great with our two younger otters, Juno and Lincoln, and was often observed wrestling and playing with them.

"But he was the elder statesman of the group, and they learnt to leave him alone when he wanted to rest."

For his 20th birthday this year, local basketball team Portland Trail Blazers provided Eddie with an upgraded hoop for his training area, a small pool connected to the Oregon Zoo's Steller Cove habitat via an underwater tunnel.

Sea otters, which are native to the coasts of the Pacific Ocean in North America and Asia, are listed as threatened on the Endangered Species list.

They were hunted for their fur during the late 1800s and early 1900s and nearly went extinct. According to the National Geographic, only 1,000 to 2,000 sea otters remained in the early 1900s.

Today, sea otters are protected by the Endangered Species Act & Marine Mammal Protection Act in the United States.