One of oldest sea otter turns 20—but the surprising thing he does behind the scenes—keeps him young

March 9, 2018 11:40 am Last Updated: March 9, 2018 11:40 am

Eddie wouldn’t be alive today if not for human intervention. The sea otter that now resides comfortably in the Oregon Zoo was abandoned by his mother as a pup and left to fend for himself.

Had a team of rescuers not happened upon him, the sea otter, four weeks old at the time, likely would not have survived.

In 1998, rescuers found Eddie the sea otter abandoned on a beach in California.

(Oregon Zoo/Screenshot)

After two years of rehabilitation, the rescuers still didn’t think Eddie could survive on his own. For his own safety, they deemed him unreleasable and transferred him to the Oregon Zoo in 2000.

That’s where he’s been for the last 18 years, a remarkable feat for a male sea otter. Now 20 years old, Eddie is among the oldest living sea otters in the world.

“Male sea otters seldom live past 15 years, so Eddie’s among the oldest of his kind,” Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey, the zoo’s senior marine life keeper, said in an article published on the Oregon Zoo website.

But it isn’t all genetics and good luck. Eddie adheres to a prescribed exercise that has helped keep him feeling loose and limber.

In 2012, X-rays determined that Eddie had developed arthritis in his elbow joints. Doctors advised he learned to play basketball.

(Oregon Zoo/Screenshot)

A routine checkup reveled that Eddie was experiencing arthritis in his elbows. Doctors wanted him to exercise the joints, and suggested trainers teach him to play basketball.

“Eddie actually learned really quickly. He was probably making baskets the first week I trained him,” Jenny DeGroot, a sea otter keeper at the zoo, said in an Oregon Zoo video.

In a pen that is kept away from public view, Eddie extends out of the water and dunks the ball through a children’s basketball hoop. Playing basketball is for exercise purposes only, and is not used as a spectacle for visitors.

The otter seldom misses a dunk, but when he does, he keeps trying until he scores.

Eddie’s birthday was on March 2, and he received a special visit and gift basket to celebrate the occasion.

(Oregon Zoo/Screenshot)

The basketball-dunking sea otter has made a number of fans over the course of his life. Count the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team mascot, Blaze, as one of his biggest.

Blaze stopped by the zoo to wish Eddie a happy birthday. He brought him a gift basket full of toys, and affixed a brand-new Blazers logo on the backboard of his basketball hoop.

A delicious lobster lunch capped an afternoon of festivities and fun for the geriatric otter.

Eddie’s brown fur is now beset with swaths of grey and white. But he still loves to dunk, and his athleticism belies his age.

“He still loves to play hoops though, and he’s definitely still got game,” Nicassio-Hiskey said.