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Posted by Tara Henson on 09/06/2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                 September 6, 2013       


CONTACTS:  Tara Henson:  (405) 425-0219, office; (405) 919-9038, cell; or [email protected]

                     Candice Rennels:  (405) 425-0298, office; (405) 412-6172, cell; or [email protected]



     Leo, a 7-year-old harbor seal, died after dental surgery Wednesday afternoon, September 4, at the Oklahoma City Zoo. The dental procedure was performed to treat a severe tooth abscess. Although Leo’s vital signs initially were strong following the procedure, his heart rate suddenly dropped and, despite resuscitation efforts, he never fully regained consciousness.

     “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.”

     “Harbor seals are generally at higher risk of complications under anesthesia because of their deep-dive response, which significantly slows the heart rate as their body adapts to water depths,” said D’Agostino.

     Necropsy (animal autopsy) reports showed some small lesions in the heart muscle that may or may not have been associated with his death but could have resulted from Leo being stranded as an infant.  Tissue samples are pending.

     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.

     Leo lived with Liberty, a female harbor seal, in the pinniped pool of the Zoo’s Noble Aquatic Center: Aquaticus for six years.  Guests often noticed how acutely trained he was, responding to auditory cues, such as a baby rattle instead of visual ones. If you would like to share your memories of Leo, please visit the Zoo’s Facebook fan page at




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