Blind seal dies after medical procedure at Oklahoma City Zoo

Liberty and Leo, photo courtesy Oklahoma City Zoo

A popular animal at the Oklahoma City Zoo has died after a dental procedure.

Leo, a 7-year-old harbor seal with no eyesight, died Wednesday after his surgery. The zoo says the procedure was to treat a severe tooth abscess.

After the operation, Leo's vital signs were strong but his heart rate suddenly dropped and, despite resuscitation efforts, he never fully regained consciousness.

According to the Oklahoma City Zoo, harbor seals are at a higher risk for complications while under anesthesia because of their deep-dive response, which significantly slows the heart rate as their body adapts to water depths. Zoo officials kept a close eye on him before the procedure and took the appropriate precautions.

"We monitored Leo closely days before the procedure and followed the standard protocol for marine mammals regarding anesthesia according to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Beach, California," said Jennifer D'Agostino, Zoo veterinary services director. "All signs pointed to him doing well."

Leo came to the Zoo in April 2007 when he was a one-year-old pup. He was rescued by the former Friends of the Sea Lion Marine Mammal Center, now PMMC, but not released back into the ocean due to blindness in both eyes.

The zoo has set up a Facebook page where you can go and share your memories of Leo.