The Department of Ocean Sciences is sad to announce the death of one of its seals.
Millennium, nicknamed Lenny, passed away on Thursday, Feb. 6. Staff and volunteers of the seal facility at the Ocean Sciences Centre are deeply saddened by the loss. One of four harp seals at the Logy Bay facility, Lenny was born in captivity on March 8th, 2000. The son of Babette and Tyler, Lenny was a brother to Deane and half-brother to Jamie (now deceased).
Memorial University’s Veterinarian and Director of Animal Care, Dr. Jennifer Keyte, is involved in the investigation to determine cause of death.
“Lenny was active and curious,” she said. “He was, though, always underweight for his age, and had recently been experiencing some health issues. We will be working with the provincial veterinary pathologist, Dr. Laura Rogers, to try to determine the cause of death.”
The aim, Dr. Keyte explains, is to try to identify if there is anything of an infectious nature that may be a concern for the health of the remaining seals.
“Tissue samples will be analyzed, and tests run to find out as much as we can. Jamie’s development and the symptoms he showed before he died were similar, and, unfortunately, those investigations were inconclusive.”
Dr. Keyte notes that the Lenny had received treatment when he was ill in the fall.
“They are well cared for and well-fed,” she said. “We do blood checks on a regular basis to track how they’re doing, while always being aware to minimize handling. The remaining three seals appear to be more robust. ”
Lenny was easily identified by his dark or ‘smutty’ colouration, like his father, Tyler. He was affectionately known amongst the caregivers as the trouble-maker of the group.
“Lenny always had to know what was going on and often would get into things he shouldn’t,” said Danielle Nichols, research marketing manager at the OSC. “He was very mischievous.”
As coordinator of the facility’s Public Education Program, in which the seals play a major role, Ms. Nichols says Lenny will be greatly missed.
“With upwards of 20,000 people stopping by to visit the seals during the summer months, the loss of Lenny and, last year, his brother, Jamie, will have a substantial impact on our program,” she said. “Some of the people who come here have been doing so for almost two decades. They know each of the seals by name and by their personalities.”
The Ocean Sciences Centre is the only facility in the world with resident harp seals in an enriched environment. The centre’s seal research programs over the years have been related to behaviour and studies of how harp seals learn and make choices. However, the OSC seals are now retired from the research program.