A seal at Storybook Gardens
Credits: MIKE HENSEN/QMI AGENCY
The two seals from London's Storybook Gardens died Friday en route to their new zoo home for reasons that remain a mystery.
A third seal, Cri Cri, is ill and in serious condition. A fourth seal, Peanut, made it St. Louis alive and well.
Storybook Gardens officials called a rare Sunday news conference to announce the deaths.
"This is a deeply sad day for Londoners and all those people who knew and loved our Storybook seals," Mayor Joe Fontana said at the news conference.
Bill Coxhead, head of the parks and recreation department, said Storybook Gardens was trying to do the best for the seals in finding them a new home and every precaution was taken to transport them safely.
"This tragic outcome was unforeseeable," he said.
Exotic animals have been on display at Storybook Gardens for 55 years. Last month, officials said they were moving away from a zoo format and had found a new home for the seals in St. Louis.
Storybook Gardens manager John Riddell said all four seals had been examined by a veterinarian and were in good condition when they left London on Friday in an air-conditioned truck under the care of Steve Bircher, the marine mammal curator at the St. Louis Zoo.
But late Friday afternoon, three of the four seals became sick and two died at a zoo in Fort Wayne, Ind., where they were taken for care.
Officials at the St. Louis Zoo will perform an autopsy on the two dead seals but the results are not expected for several weeks
Riddell said the dead seals were 11 and 12 years old.
Harbor seals can live to be 30 years old. There was no indication the seals were stricken with a virus.
St. Louis Zoo CEO Jeffery Bonner said his staff had been looking forward to welcoming the Storybook seals to their a new state-of-the art facility.
"We do everything we can when transporting animals to ensure their safety and comfort, but there is always a risk inherent in any animal transport," Bonner said.