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Brook the sea otter, an original inhabitant of Aquarium of the Pacific, dies at 21

Brook the sea otter, an original inhabitant of Aquarium of the Pacific, dies at 21
Brook, a southern sea otter at the Aquarium of the Pacific, died Tuesday. At 21, she was the oldest female of her kind in captivity. (Robin Riggs / Aquarium of the Pacific)

Brook, a sea otter whose cover girl face graced many of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s promotional materials since she was orphaned in the late 1990s, has died, the aquarium announced Wednesday.

At 21, Brook was the oldest female southern sea otter in captivity, the aquarium said. She died Tuesday, just weeks after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

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The aquarium opened on June 20, 1998, and Brook was rescued earlier that year, making her an original inhabitant of the facility.

“Remember to live like Brook: swim in saltwater, eat sustainable seafood and enjoy the little things, like your reflection in a red mirror,” the aquarium said on a donation page. The page featured a photograph of one of Brook’s favorite pastimes: being delighted by her reflection in a little red mirror.

Brook arrived at the Aquarium of the Pacific in 1998 after she was stranded in Northern California when she was 2 weeks old. Around the same time, the aquarium rescued Charlie, who became Brook’s lifelong companion and is still alive. Both were victims of strong El Niño storms that left them orphaned and unable to return to the wild.

After two decades in captivity, Brook began to slow down, the aquarium’s curator, Brett Long, said. She rested more often and became pickier with her food — normal signs of aging — but a veterinarian eventually needed to be called. She was prescribed medicine, but her lack of appetite made it difficult for her to take the medication, Long said.

Jimmy Chapman, a senior mammalogist at the aquarium who had worked with Brook for more than 10 years, remembered her as being gentle and sweet. She was obedient and receptive to the staff’s behavior training, which included tooth-brushing and being given eye drops, he said.

“Just beautiful,” Chapman said. “She trusted us and we trusted her.”

Brook’s lifelong mate, Charlie, who is just a few months older, is doing well, but Long said signs of aging are also becoming apparent in him.

“He’s slower than he used to be, and he sleeps more than he used to,” Long said, adding that his vision and hearing are also much weaker.

On Sunday, the aquarium will host a tribute to Brook instead of its annual Otter Bowl, an event timed to the Super Bowl where guests watch sea otters play ball in their exhibit. During Sunday’s tribute, guests will be able to watch a short video about Brook’s history at the aquarium and leave notes sharing their experiences and memories of her, Long said.

California’s southern sea otters were named in the Endangered Species Act after hunters in the 18th and 19th centuries wiped out nearly the entire population. By 1938, the aquarium said, only 50 were alive.

The state’s population has grown to nearly 3,000, but the animals still face threats such as ocean pollution and habitat loss.

A recently released video of Brook and Charlie’s first year in their new home shows the two young otters frolicking in their exhibit in 1998. They played with toys and performed tricks for their caretaker, obeying as he prompted them to tap his fist and stand on their hind legs.

The video ends with a boop from Brook.

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