MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota Zoo sea otter named Rocky is recovering after what the zoo calls a first-of-its-kind surgery for a sea otter in human care.

Earlier in January, Rocky underwent a four-hour surgery to remove his back left flipper. Rocky began having trouble with the flipper last June, and the decision to perform surgery was made after the sea otter lost comfortable use of the flipper.

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Three Minnesota Zoo veterinarians with experience in sea otter surgery worked together to perform what they believe is the first sea otter flipper amputation. It was performed on-site at the zoo, which helped reduce anesthesia time and stress.

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Rocky was back in the water within one hour of waking up from the surgery.

(credit: Minnesota Zoo)

“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.”

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After recovering successfully in his behind-the-scenes habitat, Rocky has now returned to his public habitat along the Russia’s Grizzly Coast exhibit.