ST. LOUIS -- A harbor seal that fell sick as she was being moved from Canada to a new exhibit at the St. Louis Zoo died Wednesday, and pathologists are still trying to determine what killed her and two seals that died in transit.
Cri Cri, a 19-year-old seal, fell gravely ill as she was being transported from Storybook Gardens, a theme park in London, Ontario. She was taken to the Indianapolis Zoo for treatment but died five days later.
Two other harbor seals, ages 11 and 12, died on Friday as they traveled in a specially-equipped, air-conditioned trailer. A fourth seal arrived in St. Louis on Saturday and zoo officials said she appeared to be healthy. She is being quarantined from other animals for 30 days, which the zoo said is standard for new arrivals.
A veterinary pathologist at the St. Louis Zoo has conducted a necropsy of the two seals that died on Friday, but test results could take several weeks. The College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University will perform the necropsy on Cri Cri.
“We hope to learn the cause of death for these animals, something that remains unknown at this time,” St. Louis Zoo president and CEO Jeffrey Bonner said. “We did everything we possibly could to ensure the safety and comfort of these animals.”
Bonner said there is always some risk in transporting animals. He said the zoo annually transports about 200 animals, almost always without any problems.
“This has been a very troubling and tragic event for all involved,” Bonner said.
Zoo officials said permits and a detailed transport plan were in place, and that the seals were examined before departure and frequently in transit. An experienced zoo curator was with the seals and a professional animal carrier oversaw their trip.
The seals were to join 11 sea lions at the St. Louis Zoo’s Sea Lion Sound, a new $18 million exhibit featuring an underwater tunnel into sea lion habitat scheduled to open June 30.
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