KUSHIRO, Hokkaido (Kyodo) The city of Kushiro in Hokkaido has awarded special resident status to a sea otter who began appearing in the Kushiro River in February.

The award ceremony for the sea otter, named Ku-chan, was held Wednesday at the riverbank near Nusamai Bridge near the mouth of the river, where the sea otter has often been spotted.

Though sightings of Ku-chan have dropped off lately, the otter suddenly appeared in the water and swam near the bridge during a ceremony speech delivered by Mayor Hiroya Ebina. Those on hand cheered and commented that the animal had shown up to receive the special resident card.

The card bears the sea otter’s name, favorite food and ID photo. Copies of the card will be distributed free of charge at kiosks and a shopping complex near the bridge.

“I’d like to promote Kushiro by sending copies to my friends outside the city,” said Hiromi Minami, a 40-year-old housewife.

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