Minnesota Zoo Media Contact

If you are a member of the press, please contact: Zach Nugent
Communication and Media Specialist
Minnesota Zoo
13000 Zoo Boulevard
Apple Valley, MN 55124
952.431.9534 direct
952-250-7293 mobile
[email protected]

Apple Valley, MN – January 27, 2020 – It’s been a smooth recovery for Rocky the sea otter. On January 9, Rocky underwent a four-hour surgery to remove his back flipper – a procedure that is believed to be a first-of-its-kind for a sea otter in human care.

Last June zookeepers at the Minnesota Zoo noticed Rocky was not using his back left flipper and having difficulty coming out of the water onto land. The Minnesota Zoo vet team began running tests and started treatment for what appeared to be a possible infection. After initial improvements, Rocky’s symptoms began to reappear and worsen in the fall. It became clear that even with extensive treatment, Rocky would not regain comfortable use of his flipper.

Three Minnesota Zoo veterinarians, with experience in surgery with sea otters, worked together to perform what is believed to be the first sea otter flipper amputation. The surgery was performed on-site at the Zoo, which helped reduce anesthesia time and stress, ultimately setting Rocky up for the best chances at a successful recovery. Within one hour of waking up from anesthesia, Rocky was back in the water in his behind-the-scenes habitat.

“It is very important for sea otters to return to the water as soon as possible after surgery in order to maintain proper thermo-regulation,” said Minnesota Zoo veterinarian Dr. Karisa Tang. Sea otters have the thickest fur coat of any mammal and can overheat easily. “Swimming, grooming, and maintaining the correct body temperature is imperative for their overall health and recovery,” stated Dr. Tang.

After several days in his behind-the-scenes area, Rocky is now ready to be back in his public habitat along the Zoo’s Russia’s Grizzly Coast exhibit, where he can be seen swimming with his sea otter companions Capers and Jasper.

The Minnesota Zoo is a year-round destination located in Apple Valley, just minutes south of Mall of America. The Zoo’s mission is to connect people, animals and the natural world to save wildlife. For more information, call 952.431.9500 or visit mnzoo.org. The Minnesota Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and an institutional member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).