Rosa, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s oldest otter and a social media star, dies at 24

Rosa, the Southern sea otter.
Rosa, a southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis), in the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She died at the age of 24.
(Tyson V. Rininger / © Monterey Bay Aquarium)

Rosa, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s oldest sea otter and one of its social media stars, died Wednesday, the aquarium said in a statement.

The southern sea otter, 24, had served as a surrogate mother for 15 otters, the most in the aquarium’s history. She outlived the life expectancy for her species in the wild, which is typically 15 to 20 years, according to a post by the aquarium on Facebook.

Rosa was known for her blond head and “her signature head-all-the-way-back swimming style,” the aquarium wrote.


“Rosa was one of our most playful sea otters, and even at 24 years old, she would still be seen frolicking and wrestling with the younger otters when she instigated it,” said Melanie Oerter, curator of mammals.

“Rosa was usually found sleeping against the window while on exhibit with her chin tucked tight into her chest and her tail swishing back and forth,” she said.

She first arrived as a “five-pound, four-week-old pup after being stranded as an orphan in September 1999,” and was released into the wild for several years, according to a page about Rosa on the aquarium’s website. She returned to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2002 after experts determined that she had become too accustomed to humans and was not suited for life in the wild.

In the past several weeks, Rosa’s health deteriorated, and experts at the aquarium decided to euthanize her. “She passed away peacefully, surrounded by her caretakers,” according to the aquarium’s post.

In the post, the aquarium called Rosa a “charismatic ambassador for her threatened species” who played “a leading role in the story of sea otter recovery from near-extinction during the fur trade.”