We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved sea otter Gidget passed away Sunday evening, despite the efforts of the Aquarium’s veterinary and sea otter teams to reverse a sudden decline in her health over the past week.
Gidget, a 10-year-old female sea otter who was a popular member of the sea otter exhibit and surrogacy program, had chronic health problems because of osteoarthritis in her hips, which was diligently managed by our sea otter and veterinary teams.
Found stranded as a 10-week-old pup on Morro Strand State Beach in October 2008, Gidget was rescued by volunteers of The Marine Mammal Center and a California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, and taken to the Aquarium for care. After being declared non-releasable, Gidget was transferred to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California where she was raised for the first five years of her life.
On January 21, 2013, she returned to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to join the sea otter exhibit and serve as a surrogate mother for four rescued otter pups before being retired from those duties in January 2017 because of her arthritis.
Even in retirement, her work for her species never slowed down. Gidget was the basis of the first complete southern sea otter genome, sequenced by researchers UCLA a few years ago. “Gidget is going to be a reference point for future genetic studies of Southern sea otters for years to come,” said Annabel Beichman, who is leading the initiative at UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Mapping the genome will contribute to the recovery of California’s threatened sea otter population. In that way, she says, “Gidget’s contributing to the conservation of her entire species.”
At the Aquarium, Gidget found a place in the hearts of millions of visitors and fans of the sea otter cam over the past six years and was known for her love of diving head-first into buckets and piles of ice.
“Gidget touched millions of people with her beauty, charm, and an exuberance of mischief,” said Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Mike Murray. “She is an example of why we do what we do for the animals in our care and for their wild kin.”
Gidget’s legacy lives on in the orphaned pups she helped rear as a part of our Sea Otter Program with our five other resident sea otters, Rosa, Abby, Kit, Ivy and Selka, and as the face of the sea otter genome. Thank you all for your support of the Sea Otter Program and for being part of the Aquarium family at this difficult time.