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With great sadness, Kaleideum announces that Olive, the young river otter who made her much-anticipated debut at the Museum last fall, passed away earlier in the week. According to animal care staff, Olive appeared to be her normal – playful and curious – self on Monday, but, when a staff member opened the otter exhibit on Tuesday morning, she was found to have passed away during the night.

Dr. Mitchell Spindel of Animal Ark Veterinary Hospital, who tends to the Museum’s full collection of exhibit and program animals, performed a necropsy (animal autopsy) and indicated that preliminary results show that the young river otter possessed a heart defect, which most likely led to her sudden death. Pathology results are pending, but no signs of infection or trauma were identified. “This is a very sad, but not unheard of, situation,” said Dr. Spindel. “More often than not, we have no way of knowing that an animal – especially a wild animal – carries this type of defect until it’s too late. By all appearances, Olive was a healthy and happy otter. She met her growth benchmarks, ate well, and played hard.”

Since it opened in the early 1990s, the North American River Otter exhibit at Kaleideum North has been one of the museum’s most popular exhibits. Visitors of all ages enjoy watching the animals swim and play through the large glass windows above and below the water’s surface. When Mollie, the original female otter, passed away of old age in 2015, Kaleideum staff began what would turn out to be a lengthy search to find a companion for Otto, the remaining otter. Museum curators finally received word last summer that wildlife officials in Whispering Pines, NC, had rescued an orphaned otter who could not be released back into the wild and therefore needed a permanent home. The young female was introduced to Otto in October, and the two eventually became fast friends, with the older male at first tolerating and then reciprocating her playful antics. Following a naming contest held among Museum members and visitors, she was given the name Olive, but she remained affectionately known as “Baby” to her caretakers.

“We are saddened by Olive’s sudden and completely unexpected death,” said Kaleideum Executive Director Elizabeth Dampier. “She was a favorite of the staff, especially the animal curators who have, since she first arrived as a baby, cared for her and celebrated each milestone, and she was loved by many of our members and visitors.”