(KSDK) - Two of the four harbor seals bound for the Saint Louis Zoo's new Sea Lion Sound exhibit died Friday, June 8 en route from their previous home, the Storybook Gardens theme park in London, Ontario.
"We do everything we can when transporting animals to ensure their safety and comfort, but there is always some risk inherent in any animal transport," Dr. Jeffrey Bonner, Dana Brown President and CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo, said.
The seals appeared healthy when they passed through U.S. Customs inspections at noon on Friday, but one animal became unresponsive approximately four hours later. The convoy stopped at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo in Fort Wayne, Ind., where a veterinarian confirmed that one seal was dead and another showed signs of distress. Efforts to save the second seal were unsuccessful. A third seal displaying similar symptoms was left at the Indianapolis Zoo on Saturday, June 9.
The fourth seal arrived at the Saint Louis Zoo on Saturday afternoon and appeared to be in good health. She started the zoo's standard 30-day quarantine period.
According to the Saint Louis Zoo, all of the seals were examined before their departure, and the plan for their transport had acquired all necessary permits and approval by the National Marine Fisheries and the International Air Transport Association. A Saint Louis Zoo curator accompanied the seals as they traveled in an air-conditioned trailer.
"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," Bonner said.
The Sea Lion Sound exhibit, home to 11 sea lions and the newly arrived seal, is scheduled
to open June 30.