Animal lovers are gathering at an upstate New York zoo to mourn the loss of a beloved sea lion who died Thursday while receiving medical treatment.
Puff, a 6-year-old male sea lion at the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, N.Y., was under anesthesia Thursday receiving treatment for bloody nasal discharge. The 490-pound sea lion had been receiving treatment for several months but did not recover from Thursday's examination.
"The necropsy confirmed an invasive necrotizing sinusitis, the exact cause of which will be determined in six to eight weeks by subsequent bacterial and fungal cultures and histopathology," Dr. Jeff Wyatt, the Zoo's Director of Animal Health & Conservation said in a statement. "This unusual infectious sinus condition is localized and poses no threat to the health of the Zoo's other sea lions."
Sea lions normally live to be at least 15 to 20 years old.
Puff was born at Sea World in Orlando, Fla., in 2006. He came to Rochester in May 2007 and became a part of the zoo's family. He would participate in enrichment shows in which educators would teach visitors about sea lions. He was also a lover of squid.
"He would put his nose up in the air and he put his flipper out, he was very full of personality," said Rachel Baker August, executive director of the Seneca Park Zoo Society. "We loved him."
The zoo has three other sea lions, two 3-year-old females named Lily and Marina, and a 21-year-old male named Flounder.
"When the females first came to the zoo he was not so mature. But when these two females showed up he seemed to mature quickly and became the big man on campus," August said. "He matured quite a bit and he was really a crowd pleaser."
Zoo visitors shared kind words for Puff on the Seneca Park Zoo's Facebook page.
"RIP Puff! He was always such a playful and engaging little guy. The children came to love him at your Breakfast with Santa events as he would play and chase a big Christmas ornament along the glass," one zoo-goer wrote.
"All my grandchildren are in tears, but so is my 19-year-old, she loved Puff," another wrote.
The zoo does not have any plans to replace Puff at this time, although August said they may reconsider next summer after they assess how the three remaining sea lions work together.