CHICAGO — Veterinarians at the Shedd Aquarium have euthanized 21-year-old river otter Rio due to her deteriorating health, it was announced Tuesday.
Rio, whose name means river in Spanish, lived nearly twice as long as the average otter's life expectancy of 12 years. The decision to euthanize the otter, who lived in the "At Home on the Great Lakes" exhibit, was made due to her decreased quality of life as she aged, officials said.
Rio came to the Shedd from the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas in 1992 at 6 months old.
She remained "charismatic" and active in her later years, playing with her favorite toys like a blue storage bin, dog Kongs and felt car wash strips. All otters at the Shedd also go through twice-daily training, playtime and health checks with Shedd staff.
On a blog post featuring Rio for her 21st birthday in March, zoo officials said the river otter was in great health, not even needing medication for her joints, which would have been common for an animal her age.
"As she grew older, Rio became a testament to the zoological community’s emerging expertise in geriatric animal care and welfare,” said Ken Ramirez, executive vice president of animal care and training. “With her playful personality, Rio was a beloved ambassador for her species.”
Rio arrived at the Shedd during a time when her species was listed on Illinois' endangered list. After a reintroduction program, more than 10,000 river otters now live in Illinois' waterways, a statement said.