Eddie the sea otter has died at the age of 20.
On Thursday, the Oregon Zoo announced that the beloved creature — who became an internet star back in 2013 after video of him playing basketball went viral — was “humanely euthanized this morning following a decline related to his advanced years.”
“Male sea otters seldom live past 15 years, so Eddie was among the very oldest of his kind,” Amy Cutting, who oversees the zoo’s marine life area, said in a statement on the Oregon Zoo’s website.
“He was quite feisty as a young otter, and we still saw that spirit come through during his later years,” she added. “He got along great with our two younger otters, Juno and Lincoln, and was often observed wrestling and playing with them. But he was the elder statesman of the group, and they learned to leave him alone when he wanted to rest.”
According to the Oregon Zoo, the mammal was orphaned as a pup along the California coast in 1998 and later taken into the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s rescue and care program for rehabilitation. The zoo became his home in 2000 after he was deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Stardom came five years ago, when a video of his behind-the-scenes exercise routine was published. It’s since earned millions of views.
Eddie mastered the sport to combat his elbow arthritis, Today reported. Within the first week of training, he started making baskets.
“He’s definitely got game,” Jenny DeGroot, the zoo’s lead sea otter keeper, told the NBC show at the time. “Sea otters have incredible dexterity, so it makes sense Eddie would have this hidden talent. They’re famous for using rocks as tools to crack open clams.”
When zoo veterinarians discovered Eddie’s condition during an X-ray scan, they knew they “had to get creative,” DeGroot explained. “There aren’t many natural opportunities for Eddie to work those arthritic elbow joints because sea otters don’t use their front limbs to swim — they swim by moving their back legs and flippers.”
So what was his signature move? The slam dunk.
“Eddie almost never misses,” DeGroot added in a YouTube video, “and if he does miss he keeps going until he makes it.”
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