Maymont’s beloved 17-year-old otter Pandora passes away

Photo: Maymont Park
Photo: Maymont Park

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Maymont family is mourning the recent loss of Pandora, a female North American river otter who passed away over the weekend at the age of 17.

Pandora arrived at Maymont as an orphaned 6-week-old pup on May 24, 1999. She had been monitored along the banks of the Chickahominy River by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) after it was evident that her mother would not return for her. After a short time with a wildlife rehabilitator, she was eagerly welcomed at Maymont. The new Robins Nature & Visitor Center, featuring a large aquarium for river otters, was scheduled to open soon. Pandora was the first otter ever to join Maymont’s native wildlife community.

Maymont aquarist Kristin Coury said Pandora had a special connection with guests, racing them across her exhibit and showing off her signature backflip for anyone who would watch.

“We thought of Pandora as a ‘sweet and saucy’ personality,” said Coury. “Some of her favorite things were eating hardboiled eggs, playing with disc sleds and brushes, and snuggling with Neptune in their hammock. Her spunky, curious nature is already sorely missed.”

North American river otters typically live eight to nine years in the wild but can live significantly longer in captivity. Recently, Pandora was showing signs of her advanced age including a loss of appetite and sluggishness, and she died naturally of kidney failure in the care of veterinarian Dr. Kelly Gottschalk.

“The evidence of Maymont’s care and attention is found in the remarkably long number of years that their animals enjoy,” said Dr. Gottschalk. The staff truly helps them thrive. I hope everyone will be able to celebrate Pandora’s long and happy life, even as they experience the sadness of losing her.”

Maymont currently has one male river otter, Neptune, who came from Florida and lived with Pandora since the Nature Center opened in November 1999. Neptune is an active 19-year-old who can be seen daily swimming in his exhibit. He is coping well with the loss of Pandora and he is receiving special enrichments from the animal keepers to keep him stimulated. Animal keepers and Dr. Gottschalk monitor his status closely and regularly due to his advanced age.

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