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article imageDeath of two seals casts pall over London, Ont., children's park

By Ken Wightman     Jun 11, 2012 in Odd News
London - Friday, four seals left London, Ontario, for a new state-of-the-art marine exhibit at the St. Louis Zoo. Nunavut and Atlantis never made it. The two seals died en route in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where they had been taken for medical care.
A third seal, Cri Cri, was reported in critical condition and receiving treatment in a zoo in Indianapolis. Only Peanut, the fourth seal, completed the trip to St. Louis in good health. The dead seals were 11 and 12, young by seal standards. It had been expected they would live for 30 years.
In January, when city council voted to find new homes for the few exotic animals remaining at the city-owned zoo, there were few complaints. By today's standards, the animals in the small enclosures at Storybook Gardens in London were poorly housed.
Most agreed a move would be best for the lynx and the raptors, a bigger enclosure would surely benefit the otter and the beaver, but some wondered about the necessity of evicting the harbour seals.
Storybook Gardens in London is still filled with characters from children s stories.
Storybook Gardens in London is still filled with characters from children's stories.
The seals always seemed happy swimming about the Storybook Gardens pool, as they had done for decades. People were invited to stop by the park any day at 2:00 p.m. to watch the seals lining up for their favourite meal: Fresh fish. A staff member would stand on a platform jutting out into the pool and throw a fish to each seal in turn. Mealtime was a very orderly event attended by very well mannered diners.
The seals seemed relaxed, playful, friendly. There was a strong bond between the staff and the seals. The zoo said these seals were all born in captivity. They were Londoners. They had never know any other home.
It was said if released into the wild they would die. In London, they were loved and pampered. It appeared that they had a good life. Admittedly, appearances can be deceiving.
A Storybook Gardens news release reports Florine Morrison, a director of Zoocheck Canada which helped coordinate and pay for the transfer, said, "We were shocked by the news and we want answers from the St. Louis Zoo as to the cause of death and to understand if protocols were carefully followed during the transport."
In St. Louis, the zoo's veterinary pathologist will be conducting a full necropsy on both animals, but the ultimate cause of death may not be known for several weeks.
The enclosures for the exotic animals at Storybook Gardens in London  Ontario  were too small by tod...
The enclosures for the exotic animals at Storybook Gardens in London, Ontario, were too small by today's standards but the seals, all born in London, seemed content.
A check of the comments on the local newspaper's website confirms many Londoners believed the seals were content where they were. One person wrote that the Storybook Gardens pool was "familiar and non stressful" for the seals. Another Londoner felt the city should have built the locally-born seals a bigger, better habitat instead of shipping them out of the country.
The move to St. Louis should have produced a happy ending to the Storybook Gardens seal saga. Instead, it has cast a terrible pall over the park made famous decades ago by the park's most famous seal – Slippery, so named because he escaped his enclosure and swam as far as Toledo on the edge of Lake Erie before being captured and returned to London.
Such a sad end to London's long love affair with seals.
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