Kiana the sea otter dies after 16 years at Shedd Aquarium, was saved as orphaned otter pup in Alaska

ByZach Ben-Amots WLS logo
Thursday, June 17, 2021
Kiana the sea otter dies after 16 years at Shedd Aquarium
Kiana the sea otter dies after 16 years at Shedd Aquarium

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Kiana, the 16-year-old northern sea otter who Shedd Aquarium helped save as an orphaned pup off the Alaskan coast, has died nearly one year after being diagnosed with lymphoma. She was the focus of the first episode of 'An Ocean on the Lake,' the new multi-part behind-the-scenes series produced in partnership between ABC 7 and Shedd.

One of the most beloved animals at Shedd, Kiana was well-known for the white fur coat she developed in old age along with her calm demeanor and her love of ice cubes. From the time Kiana first arrived at Shedd, her main caretaker was Christy Sterling.

"Just a year after I started volunteering (at Shedd), I got a call that they'd gotten an orphaned otter pup," Sterling said, before Kiana's passing. "That was 16 years ago.

Sterling bottle fed Kiana as a baby otter pup and watched her grow into old age, before leading the otter's care team after a cancer diagnoses in mid-2020.

Dr. Karisa Tang was the staff veterinarian who led Kiana's care after her diagnosis. Tang worked with a veterinary oncologist at the Veterinary Specialty Center in suburban Buffalo Grove.

Tang said that the individualized care plan focused on giving Kiana "as few treatments as possible" to decrease her time away from other otters and minimize the number of chemotherapy treatments.

Kiana's treatment was very mild and worked to help keep her comfortable, rather than as a life-saving measure. She died on June 16, several weeks after her final course of chemotherapy.

Learn more about Kiana's story by watching Episode 1 of 'An Ocean on the Lake.'