Environment

Sydney adventure ends in tragedy for Rushcutters Bay seal

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“Unfortunately the seals condition deteriorated, he began losing weight and the right eyeball
gradually became opaque and the seal could no longer see with it. The area outside the eye was
also severely swollen and not healing.

"We elected to anaesthetise him to examine the injuries further, and it was discovered the eye was completely blind and there were severe flipper wounds,” she said.

The elderly seal, seen here sprawled in the sun, has died due to health complications.

Photo: Wayne Reynolds

The seal died under anaesthesia on the way to Taronga's wildlife hospital, and a necropsy, an animal version of an autopsy, is under way.

ORRCA, a volunteer ocean rescue organisation which assisted Taronga Zoo staff with monitoring the seal, said it would have been "inhumane" to let him suffer without attempting treatment.

ORRCA president Jacqueline O'Neill said it was a sad outcome.

"The decline was rapid and sudden," Ms O'Neill told Fairfax Media.

"We hoped it would recover but, by the time it started to decline, an intervention was required by the veterinarian."

Ms O'Neill said she was aware of criticism from some residents that anaesthetising the seal made his condition worse.

"We fully support any of the action taken yesterday. The right calls were made at the right time. There's not all that much you can do sometimes," she said.

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"You always have some critics but, as far as I'm concerned, Taronga Zoo and National Parks have done the right thing. I personally don't think anything more could be done.

"From what we could tell, the teeth were pretty worn. To us that indicated the animal was quite old."

Ms O'Neill said it was encouraging that seal numbers were increasing and to see people engaging with nature.

"We're seeing more seals on the east coast – they were hunted near to extinction but the numbers are recovering."

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Josh Dye

Josh Dye is a news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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