Charlie, a sea otter at Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific and one of the exhibit’s original animals, hit a milestone this weekend.
The furry fellow celebrated his 22nd birthday, a feat that puts him in the record books as the oldest Southern sea otter in captivity.
Charlie, who was rescued in 1998 and brought to the fledgling aquarium after being orphaned in a strong El Niño storm, has lived twice the average life span of a sea otter. His birthday earned him a spot in “Guinness World Records: Wild Things,” the aquarium said.
On Saturday, visitors sang to the birthday boy as he munched on an edible seafood cake and enjoyed gifts.
“Although he doesn’t get around like he used to, he is enjoying life and the aquarium appreciates every day he is with us,” the Aquarium of the Pacific said in a news release.
In January, when Charlie’s lifelong companion, Brook, died of old age, aquarium officials noted that he was slowing down too. He sleeps more and has begun losing his vision and hearing, said Brett Long, an aquarium curator.
Still, Charlie is adapting to life without Brook, and he is spending time with several other sea otters in his exhibit, Long said.
Southern sea otters, which typically live along the California coast from south of San Francisco to the Central Coast, are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
After being rescued, Charlie became an animal ambassador and has helped researchers in several studies. Between 2011 and 2013, he participated in UC Santa Cruz research on how sea otters perceive sound, the aquarium said.
Although his birthday weekend is over, Charlie is still accepting gifts. The Aquarium of the Pacific launched a donation page for the marine mammal, where people can donate $5 to feed Charlie shrimp, $15 to make a birthday treat or $25 for toys.