Thelma, the geriatric Oregon Zoo otter with one lung, euthanized - KPTV - FOX 12

Thelma, the geriatric Oregon Zoo otter with one lung, euthanized

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Sea otter Thelma plays in the Oregon Zoo’s Steller Cove marine life habitat. Photo by Shervin Hess, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo. Sea otter Thelma plays in the Oregon Zoo’s Steller Cove marine life habitat. Photo by Shervin Hess, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

The Oregon Zoo said goodbye to one of its longtime residents Saturday when Thelma the otter was humanely euthanized, the zoo announced Monday.

The zoo said Thelma had experienced a decline in her health due to complications related to her age. Thelma was believed to be around 19 years old and was known as an otter who “continually beat the odds.”

Rescued in 1998 as a pup, Thelma arrived at the zoo’s Stellar Cove Marine life habitat with her companion otter Eddie in 2000. Both Thelma and Eddie were transferred from Monterey Bay.

The zoo was surprised in 2001 when Thelma gave birth to her pup Ozzie, Oz for short. The birth was unexpected since sea otter breeding is not permitted and birth control is required for otters cared for by humans.

But, despite being on birth control, Thelma became a mom to the first southern sea otter to be conceived, born and raised by an otter in human care. Oz now lives at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.

Five years later, Thelma overcame a health obstacle – caregivers found Thelma’s left lung wasn’t inflating properly.

The lung couldn’t be repaired by surgery so it was removed in a procedure the first of its kind ever attempted on a sea otter.

In the years after Thelma’s operation, zoo staff said she not only survived but thrived.

Thelma became a foster mom to Juno, an orphaned otter pup, in 2014.

In her 17 years at the Oregon Zoo, staff members said Thelma was a spry, energetic and playful otter.

“We knew she was getting up there in years and wouldn’t live forever, but it’s still hard to believe she’s gone,” said Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey, the zoo’s senior marine life keeper who worked with Thelma for more than 15 years. “She was incredibly tough, but at the same time she had a really gentle and nurturing spirit.”

The zoo shared a video on it's social media of Thelma to remember her life.

Sea otters are listed as threatened on the Endangered Species list and are protected by law against trapping, according to the zoo.

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