Rushcutters Bay seal dies

The Australian fur seal that had been hauled out around Rushcutters Bay in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs has died of multiple health complications following an assessment this morning.

Australian fur-seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus)

Taronga Zoo Sydney vet Kimberley Vinette Herrin said the elderly male Australian seal was monitored closely for the last several days.

“Initially the seal was found with injuries around the right eye as well as flipper wounds, and we monitored the seal hoping the eye would heal on its own,” said Dr Vinette Herrin.

“Unfortunately the seal’s 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 severally swollen and not healing. We elected to anesthetise him to examine the injuries further, and it was discovered the eye was completely blind and there were severe flipper wounds. The seal died under anaesthesia on the way to Taronga Wildlife Hospital today, and a necropsy is underway,” she said.

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) ranger Chad Weston said NPWS, Taronga Zoo Sydney and ORRCA had been monitoring the seal but with growing concern.

“Marine mammal vets from Taronga did an assessment on the animal a week ago and its body condition at that point was considered adequate enough to recover naturally,” Mr Weston said.

“However this week, it did not improve as hoped and all agencies involved had growing concerns it may have been suffering from multiple health issues, which was confirmed by a further assessment by Taronga vets on Tuesday,” he said.

ORRCA spokesperson Shona Lorigan said that while seals are incredibly resilient, and this seal was given space to rest and recover, its condition continued to deteriorate leaving authorities with no choice but to intervene.

“It is important to give seals every opportunity to rest as they can often recover from significant injuries, however there comes a point when a seal has been hauled out for this length of time and is deteriorating where it becomes inhumane to let it suffer without attempting treatment,” Ms Lorigan said.

NPWS, ORRCA and Taronga Zoo Sydney said the support of Woollahra Council, Sydney City Council, the local Police and the community had been instrumental over the past ten days in giving the seal every chance to recover on its own.

People are reminded that if they see a seal hauled they need to give it space (at least 40 metres), and keep dogs and children well away and contact ORRCA’s 24/7 hotline on (02) 9415 3333 or your local NPWS office if concerned about its health.