21 March 2014

Melbourne Zoo's Veterinarians and Wild Sea Keepers made the sad decision today to euthanize Australian Fur Seal Bay.

Head Vet Dr. Michael Lynch explains that the first signs of Bay’s illness were seen in December 2013: `She was slightly lame in her right front flipper, but more disturbingly was in acute renal failure due to an infection.’

He says that the initial investigation into her condition proved inconclusive as to the source of the infection, but she responded well to the intensive therapy and appeared to make a good recovery.

When Bay showed renewed signs of lameness in January, she was taken to the Veterinary School at Werribee for a CT scan and bone biopsy, but again the tests were inconclusive.

Again Bay seemed to recover with supportive treatment but recently she suddenly re-presented with lameness in the right fore-flipper. Blood samples and radiographs were taken indicating Bay was anaemic and the bones in her fore-flippers had lost an alarming amount of density. On the basis of this, the CT scan and biopsies were repeated, and vets could confirm that she was suffering from a very aggressive leukaemia, which was affecting the bone.  

Dr. Lynch notes that this is a very unusual type of cancer for seals: ‘We can’t treat it.  There is no good chance of success, and the impact of the treatment would be too severe to merely extend her life for a short time.

‘So far, Bay has been comfortable throughout this process and responsive to the Keepers, with her appetite remaining good.

‘We have decided that in Bay’s best interests, we would spare her the discomfort of chemotherapy with no likelihood of a positive outcome.‘

Bay was eight years old and came into care in October, 2007, when she was found malnourished at the Shoreham foreshore near Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula.

She was a yearling who was not adjusting well to the stresses of living independently.

As all Australian Fur Seals give birth in November or December, mothers wean off their young born the previous summer in time to prepare to give birth again.

It was decided that Bay would not have a good chance of survival if she were taken back to the wild. As this was the time when Wild Sea was under construction, Bay spent six months at Taronga Zoo before returning to Melbourne in time for the new exhibit to be opened in 2009.

Zoo Director Kevin Tanner says ‘Zoo staff and especially the dedicated Wild Sea Keepers are extremely saddened by the loss of Bay, a beautiful seal, and we expect that Zoo Members and other regular visitors will also feel the loss.

‘In these difficult circumstances, the welfare of the individual animal is always the priority, and our Veterinarians only take this option after the most careful consideration.

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