DES MOINES, Iowa – Blank Park Zoo’s elderly female sea lion, Pupper, passed away Thursday.
She was 29 years old and lived past the expected age of 23.
The Director of Animal Care, Shannon McKinney, said Pupper was born at Blank Park Zoo on June 7, 1989 and was the oldest resident at the Hub Harbor Seal and Sea Lion Pool.
"Pupper was one of the animals that when we started working on husbandry training and really improving how we care for the animals, she was pivotal. She taught us how to be trainers and I think a lot of times when working with animals people view it as one sided, but it really is two sided. She was an amazing teacher and she will leave us with life lessons that none of us will ever forget," McKinney said.
She said they’re not exactly sure why Pupper died, but she was sent to Iowa State for necropsy and preliminary results state she had a chronic condition.
McKinney said she will be missed by both the animals and zoo keepers.
"I mean not just the animals, the staff that worked with her day in and day out are definitely saddened by it. We have noticed that it's not quite as exciting and active in the pool as it usually is. Fortunately the animals were with her and I'm confident that they are fully aware of what occurred and were at least with her in those final moments. But yeah, definitely the staff are feeling it," McKinney said.
She said Pupper was known for what she would do during demonstrations: a fast swim around the pool, leading to a high jump and giant splash.
“She loved people and hearing the crowd clap and cheer,” Mckinney said.
Due to this news, Blank Park Zoo decided to delay the release of the name finalists for the harbor seal pup until Tuesday, September 4.