Sealvester, the seal which delighted residents and visitors at Rushcutters Bay during its short stay in the area, has died.
Taronga Wildlife Hospital confirmed on Thursday the seal, which had eye and flipper wounds and was underweight, died in the van on the way to the hospital after it was sedated to be taken away for treatment.
The Australian fur seal was regularly spotted sunning itself at leafy Rushcutters Bay Park in Sydney’s affluent eastern suburbs over the past two weeks.
Sealvester, as it was nicknamed, quickly became a favourite of passers-by at the waterfront after being first spotted in the area on March 24.
Taronga Zoo vet officer Kimberley Vinette Herrin said the decision to intervene and anaesthetise the seal was taken after his condition continued to get worse.
“We saw he had lost quite a bit of weight so we anaesthetised him to examine his eye and flipper wounds with the aim of having a look at him a little closer,” Ms Herrin said.
“He was about 140kg – a seal that age and that size should probably weigh 205kg or a little more.”
Ms Herrin admitted the decision to anaesthetise the animal could have had a role in its death, but said it was made for the seal’s welfare.
“The last thing we wanted for him was to slowly deteriorate and die a really uncomfortable death,” she said.
Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) volunteer Shona Lorigan , who had been monitoring the seal’s condition, said he had been slowly getting worse.
“Over the last couple of days we’ve watched his condition deteriorate – particularly his eye wound,” Ms Lorigan said. “And his body condition has also gone down hill.”
Seal a social media star
Sealvester’s sunbaking was not without controversy.
Several days after it was first spotted, the City of Sydney constructed a temporary fence at the base of the ocean steps the seal had been using to access the foreshore.
The decision caused a stir on social media and the fence was subsequently breached.
It was then moved back to allow Sealvester to access part of the foreshore, which the animal had been doing until Thursday.
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The park is a popular dog-walking area for residents of the picturesque suburb, and they had been urged to keep a safe distance from the seal for their own safety.
Ms Lorigan said the residents had been respecting the seal’s space, giving it the “very best chance to recover”.
According to ORRCA volunteers, seal numbers in NSW are on the rise, with regular sightings up and down the coast after almost being hunted to extinction in the past.
ORRCA monitors several solitary seals in the harbour and the closest colony is on Montague Island, off Narooma.