From the moment she was discovered in 2004, orphaned and alone in the water by a boater near Sitka, Alaska, Tanu captured the hearts of everyone who met her. It is with great sadness that we share the news that Tanu, the Vancouver Aquarium’s eldest rescued sea otter, passed on Tuesday surrounded by her animal care and her veterinary team.
Tanu was only weeks old when she was transported to the Alaska SeaLife Center where staff from the Vancouver Aquarium flew in to assist with her care for over a month. Once she was stabilized, she was hand-raised by a care team who taught her everything from how to eat to essential grooming skills.
Later in her life, Tanu—known for her calm and gentle demeanour—played a significant role in raising the other rescued otter pups who joined the Vancouver Aquarium family after her. Tanu was the first to welcome new pups like Hardy, Rialto, and Taz to their new home.
Her impact on visitors was equally significant. She holds a special place in our community, well-known for her enthusiastic backstrokes, playful ice hoarding and charismatic blonde face.
As a cherished ambassador for her species, Tanu leaves a legacy as part of a family of sea otters that raises critical awareness for wildlife conservation and rescue. Sea otters face a number of challenges in the wild including pollution, oil spills, predation, disease, and human interference. At one point sea otters were nearly hunted to extinction for their thick fur.
In 2018, Tanu underwent surgery to overcome a battle with uterine cancer and was under careful observation from our veterinary staff. Following a change in her condition and behaviour this morning, Tanu’s dedicated veterinary care team decided to take her off-site for advanced imaging where, unfortunately, she passed away soon after arrival. Her care team will be attempting to determine the cause of her illness.
Staff at the Vancouver Aquarium are grateful for your support as we mourn the loss of beloved rescue sea otter Tanu and reflect on the incredible impact she’s had on the hearts of staff and visitors alike.
If you’d like to learn more about the rehabilitation of orphaned sea otters like Tanu and support her rescue legacy, please visit ocean.org/rescue.