Pacino, an African spot-necked otter, had been at the Tucson zoo for about 12 years. The life span of such otters is unclear.


Pacino, a male African spot-necked otter, died Sunday at Tucson's Reid Park Zoo, the zoo announced on its Facebook page. According to the Facebook post:

Pacino was found unconscious in his pool and keepers took him to the zoo's health center for care. He did not respond to treatment.

The zoo's veterinary and pathologist team conducted a preliminary necropsy, which showed "a tumor on his adrenal gland, as well as some physical changes to his heart muscle."

Final test results will determine how those health issues might have contributed to his death.

Pacino was about 14 years old and "showed no symptoms of chronic health conditions." He lived in Tucson since 2001 and "will be missed by staff and visitors."

A zoo visitor first reported to a staff member that Pacino was unconscious in his pool, said Vivian VanPeenen, a zoo spokeswoman. The zoo staff thanked the zoo visitors who were present Sunday morning "for their concern and support during a difficult time."

Pacino was considered an older animal, a geriatric, VanPeenen said. She said there is no conclusive scientific data about the median life expectancy for this species of otters.

Pacino was in an exhibit with a female otter, Makena, who came in 2009 or 2010 from the Phoenix Zoo, VanPeenen said.

It is not known if the zoo will get another otter, VanPeenen said. As an accredited institution, the zoo works with otter experts around the country "for what is best for the conservation" of the African spot-necked otter. It is not considered an endangered species, but "it is a species that needs protection because of human encroachment and habitat loss in Africa," she said.

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at 573-4104 or