For Immediate Release—August 26, 2020
SEATTLE, WA — The Seattle Aquarium is deeply saddened to announce that Leu, one of our beloved northern fur seals, has passed away. He was one of just 10 northern fur seals living in zoos and aquariums in the United States.
Seattle Aquarium animal care staff discovered Leu unresponsive in his habitat early in the morning on August 26. A rescue protocol was quickly initiated and CPR applied. “The Aquarium’s professional animal care team were vigorous in their response, following the established protocol for just this type of event,” said Seattle Aquarium Director of Life Sciences Grant Abel. Despite their best efforts, Leu couldn’t be revived.
Leu was rescued as a pup in May 2012 after being found stranded under a kelp bed on a California beach. He was named for the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, the waters of which are within the natural range of wild northern fur seals.
After his rescue and rehabilitation, Leu was deemed non-releasable by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) due to head trauma that resulted in blindness to his right eye. He was brought into the care of the New England Aquarium until early 2015, when he moved to the Seattle Aquarium. Several years ago Leu was diagnosed with a seizure disorder for which he was being treated by our senior veterinarian and animal care team.
Leu wasn’t showing any signs of illness prior to his death, the cause of which is unknown and under investigation. He’s been moved to our veterinary care facility for X-rays and a necropsy. Preliminary findings will be available later this week and histopathology test results, which can take several weeks, will help us understand what role, if any, Leu’s seizure disorder may have played in his passing.
Grant Abel said, “This is a sad day for the Seattle Aquarium family, especially as many of the animal care staff have cared for Leu throughout his life here. While we knew this day might eventually come, this unfortunate event comes at a difficult time as everyone is also managing the impacts of the pandemic. We will miss Leu. He was an important ambassador for northern fur seal conservation and efforts to expand knowledge of this species under human care.”
In the wild, male northern fur seals are solitary most of the year and Flaherty, the remaining male fur seal at the Aquarium, has been eating and behaving well—he doesn’t appear distressed by recent events. Animal care staff will be providing additional observation and attention going forward.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which authorizes the Aquarium to maintain these marine mammals, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which regulates their welfare, have been notified of the event.