Betty the sea otter, named after animal lover and Golden Girl Betty White, has died

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Aquarium of the Pacific is thanking Betty the sea otter for being a friend.

In a statement posted to social media Friday, the aquarium announced the unexpected passing of Betty, a 10-year-old southern sea otter named after television icon and star of the hit series "The Golden Girls," Betty White.

"We're sad to announce the passing of Betty the southern sea otter. Betty died suddenly on Thursday, July 14, 2022, at 10 years old," the aquarium's statement read. "Up until her passing, Betty had no known health issues or changes in behavior. In coming days the Aquarium’s veterinary team and outside veterinary specialists will conduct an exam to try and determine a cause of death."

Betty arrived at Aquarium of the Pacific in 2012 when she was just 10 weeks old. Wildlife officials rescued the orphaned pup at Del Monte Beach in Northern California on Valentine's Day. She was much too young to survive on her own.

California's southern sea otters are a threatened species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Many live in the cold Pacific waters of California's Central Coast, from San Mateo County all the way to Santa Barbara. Though conservation efforts have helped sea otter populations grow to nearly 3,000, they continue to face threats of habitat loss and ocean pollution, according to the aquarium.

It was shortly after Betty's arrival in Long Beach that she met her namesake when White celebrated her 90th birthday at the aquarium. White was a well-known animal welfare activist whose love for furry friends was irrefutable. She died Dec. 31 at the age of 99.

The typical life span of a southern sea otter is between 15 and 20 years in the wild and can be longer for otters raised in captivity. In recent months, Betty was one of the adult otters helping new pups, like herself 10 years ago, navigate life at the aquarium.

"Betty was known for high-speed eating, particularly squid, and her adorable clapping behavior," said Brett Long, Aquarium of the Pacific's curator of marine mammals and birds. "She will be greatly missed.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.