ST. LOUIS (KMOX)- The Saint Louis Zoo is saddened by the deaths of two harbor seals on Friday, June 8. The seals were in transit to the Zoo from Storybook Gardens, a theme park in London, Ontario.
The two seals, 11 and 12 years old, were part of a shipment of four adult harbor seals coming from Canada to join 11 sea lions in the Zoo’s new, 1.5-acre Sea Lion Sound exhibit, set to open June 30.
All the animals were examined before departure and checked frequently while in transit. They were supposedly doing well as they passed through U.S. Customs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Fish and Wildfire Service inspections soon after noon on June 8. A few hours later, one animal was not responsive, prompting the Saint Louis Zoo curator accompanying the animals to contact the nearest zoo-the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. The Fort Wayne veterinarian confirmed that one seal was dead and another showing signs of distress. The transport team and Fort Wayne veterinary staff were unable to save the second animal.
A third seal, age 19, began displaying similar symptoms, received comprehensive treatment and was stabilized and monitored through the night. However, the decision was made to leave the seal at the Indianapolis Zoo when the seal began to show some behavioral changes as the transport moved toward St. Louis on Saturday, June 9.
The remaining seal, age 18, arrived in St. Louis on Saturday afternoon and continues to appear healthy and alert. She has begun a 30-day quarantine period, per standard practice at the Zoo for all new arrivals.
The Zoo’s veterinary pathologist will conduct a full necropsy on both animals. Zoo scientists will not know the ultimate cause of death until all testing is completed-a process that could take several weeks.
Federal authorities were notified of the deaths as soon as they confirmed. A highly experienced Saint Louis Zoo curator accompanied the animals in transit and an experienced professional animal carrier was contracted to handle the transport in a specially equipped, air-conditioned trailer.
Prior to transport, the Saint Louis Zoo filed a transport plan that was approved by National Marine Fisheries as part of the extensive permitting process to import these animals. The approved transport plan was in compliance with International Air Transport Association (IATA) requirements for shipping live animals and met all established standards for marine mammal transport.
Dr. Jeffrey Bonner, Dana Brown President and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo says, ”We offer our condolences to the Storybook Gardens staff and visitors who clearly loved these animals and our deep appreciation to the staff of Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo who worked heroically to try to save the animals and the Indianapolis Zoo medical staff who continue to work to stabilize the seal in their care.”