Zoo Mourns Loss of Pair of Otters

The Virginia Zoo is sad to announce the loss of our male otter, Sawyer and his mate, Merrill.


On average, Asian small-clawed otters live to 12 years, but Merrill surpassed that by several years and was an impressive 15-years-old, while Sawyer was 12-years-old.

Sawyer died just a few weeks ago due to geriatric-related health complications and the vet team had also been treating Merrill for geriatric-related health and mobility issues, but unfortunately her health and quality of life declined rapidly after Sawyer’s death and the decision was made for humane euthanasia last weekend. Merrill’s long, active life was a testament to the incredible care our Zoo Keepers and veterinary staff put into our work with the animals every day.

Asian small-clawed otters are listed as a Vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their species faces challenges in their natural habitat due to habitat loss and reduction in available prey such as mollusks, fish, crustaceans, and amphibians from increased environmental pollution.

There are currently no plans to bring in additional otters at this time. Because otters have such a strong conservation message and the Zoo already has a suitable habitat for this species, any incoming additions would be arranged on recommendation from the Asian Small-Clawed Otter SSP (Species Survival Plan).

The Keepers that cared for our otters will deeply miss them both, and they undoubtedly will be missed by many of our fellow staff, volunteers and guests.

For additional information about the otters, visit these past blogs: