Jamie the seal, a long-time resident of Memorial University’s Ocean Sciences Centre at Logy Bay, has died.
The Department of Ocean Sciences said the 19-year-old male harp seal died Friday of unknown causes.
Daryl Jones, supervisor at the seal facility, said life expectancy in the wild for harp seals is 20-30 years.
Jamie was born at the Ocean Sciences Centre on March 16, 1994. There are four remaining seals in residence at the facility: Babette, Jamie’s mother, who is approximately 35 years old; Tyler, 23, and their pups Lenny, 13, and Deane, 11.
“He was fine on Thursday, so this is a shock,” Jones said. “Tissue samples will now be analyzed, which may indicate a cause.”
The seals are one of the main attractions of the facility’s public education program, which sees thousands of tourists and local residents drop by annually. The seal viewing platform is accessible year-round.
“Each of the seals has a very different personality,” Jones said. “Jamie was very sensitive, a tad high-strung and easily startled, and picky about his fish. If a few scales were out of place when he took a herring in his teeth, he would refuse it, waiting for a perfect herring.
“We are fortunate to have a very good survival rate with the seals, but all living things will die at some time. Jamie will be missed.”
The Ocean Sciences Centre is the only facility in the world with resident harp seals in an enrichment environment. Seal programs over the years have been related to behavioural studies, psychological studies pertaining to life processes and functions specific to harp seals and seal husbandry, involving the general care and maintenance of seals with application of scientific principles.