Melbourne Zoo has lost a longtime resident, Australian Fur Seal Silva, who was brought to the Zoo in July 1988 as a victim of marine entanglement.
She was found near London Bridge on the Sorrento back beach with a fragment of a fishing net cutting very deeply into her neck.
Senior Veterinarian Dr. Helen McCracken along with the rest of the veterinary team and the Seal Keepers cared for Silva from then until her death today.
Dr. McCracken recalls that when they removed the netting they saw a horrendous wound that cut through not only the skin but several muscle layers: “it was a wide gaping wound.
“Essentially she was rescued in the nick of time, as she would have died of an inability to feed. The firbre of the netting had been sawing back and forth over weeks, getting tighter as she grew.”
Silva retained a deep scar around her neck throughout her life, which made her readily identifiable, so Seal Keepers were able to point Silva out to visitors as clear evidence of the dangers of marine pollution.
The very visible scar made Silva the ideal ambassador when the Zoo launched the Seal the Loop community conservation campaign, aimed at reducing the amount of rubbish going into the marine environment.
The average life span of an Australian Fur Seal in the wild is about 20 years, so Silva has lived a long life and helped her wild cousins by showing millions of Zoo visitors what damage marine pollution can cause to wildlife.
In recent years Silva had suffered from some health issues, which were managed successfully, but she did not recover fully from surgery last week to remove an ovarian cyst, and the decision was made this afternoon not to prolong her suffering.
Zoo staff are already missing a much loved member of the Zoo community.