Remembering Lootas the sea otter

Lootas pressing her two front paws against her face.
Lootas, affectionately known as "Grandma" by her caregivers.

It’s with great sadness that we announce the loss of our beloved and elderly sea otter matriarch, Lootas. Early on the morning of November 15, she let her caregivers know that she had reached the end of her time and was provided with a humane passing. At over 23 years old, Lootas was quite advanced in age—a testament to the exceptional care she received throughout her lifetime.

“Hard-wired to survive” 

Lootas, which means “Wave Eater” in the Haida language, came to us in 1997 at approximately six weeks of age, rescued after her mother was accidentally killed by a boat in Kodiak, Alaska. She was cared for around the clock by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, who fed her by hand and waded around in her pool to keep her company in rotating eight-hour shifts.

Lootas playing in snow enrichment.
Even as she got older, Lootas continued to delight her caregivers and visitors with her energy and spirit.

“This small ball of fur required 24-hour care that involved our staff, pup-care experts and an amazing team of volunteers for several months,” says former Director of Life Sciences C.J. Casson, who helped lead the team who cared for Lootas in those early days and retired in 2019.

“Anyone who worked with Lootas learned to appreciate the challenges she faced for survival—the challenges that all sea otters face in the wild,” he continues. “As she learned to self-groom, eat solid food and dive, I was amazed by how this species is simply ‘hard-wired’ to survive.”  

After being nursed back to health and deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service due to her young age at the time of her mother’s death, Lootas joined the Aquarium’s three adult sea otters in their habitat.

Mother to generations

Lootas gave birth to her first pup, Yaku, just a few years later, in 2000. Last May, he celebrated his 20th birthday at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago—the oldest sea otter under that aquarium’s care. 

Lootas holding sea otter pup Aniak.
Lootas cradling her second-born pup, Aniak.

Aniak, the second pup born to Lootas, arrived in 2002, remained at the Seattle Aquarium and went on to give birth to a pup of her own—Sekiu, who now lives at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium—in 2012. Sekiu has the distinction of being the last pup born in a zoological institution in the United States. After her birth, our animal care staff began affectionately referring to Lootas as “Grandma."

 

Three generations—Lootas, Aniak and Sekiu—enjoying ice enrichment in 2012.

Alki, the third and final pup born to Lootas, arrived in 2005 and now resides at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. It’s not an overstatement to say that Lootas and her descendants have inspired—and will continue to inspire—thousands of people across the country every day. (Even during our temporary closure to the public, you can still be inspired by the sea otters in our care via our livestreaming webcams.)

A continuing legacy

Lootas and Adaa on land looking at the camera.
Lootas (left) with Adaa (right) during a husbandry training session.

Although this is a moment of deep sadness, it’s also one of deep gratitude. Everyone at the Seattle Aquarium, especially the expert team who cared for Lootas, feels profoundly grateful for her long life and the opportunity to help shepherd her through it. She’ll be deeply missed, remembered with love—and her remains will reside at the Burke Museum, where she will continue to contribute to education and conservation for years to come. 

Although we are temporarily closed to the public, we invite you to join us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share your memories of Lootas and celebrate her amazing life.

Lootas looking at the camera.
 Lootas, you'll be missed.

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