Houston Zoo mourns loss of sea lion

HOUSTON Deano, a charismatic Houston Zoo resident and a senior citizen in the world of California sea lions passed away this morning at his pool in the Houston Zoo's McGovern Mammal Marina. Deano was 26 years old.

"The normal life expectancy of California sea lions ranges between 15 and 25 years, so Deano had a very long and full life for a sea lion," said Houston Zoo Sea Lion Curator Beth Schaefer.

"Deano was such a charmer. We are missing him so much right now. He was very special to us and to zoo guests," said Schaefer. "Although he was a sea lion senior citizen, Deano was very playful and enjoyed interacting with his keepers and the other California sea lions at the zoo." Born June 19, 1983, Deano arrived at the Houston Zoo in May 2008 from a marine park in Hawaii. As a young sea lion, Deano was a star performer at several Sea World marine parks. Deano came to the Houston Zoo as a proven breeder male and was introduced to the zoo's two young female sea lions, Cali and Kamia. While breeding activity was observed this summer, officials will not know until next summer if conception occurred.

Deano's personality and friendly manner endeared him quickly to his keepers and zoo guests. Though in his twilight years, Deano enjoyed interacting with his trainers and performing for the public. He was an extremely good natured sea lion who stole the hearts of everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. Deano was an outstanding ambassador for his species and for the Houston Zoo and he will be greatly missed. A necropsy, an animal autopsy has been performed. Results of the procedure may not be known for several weeks.

In February, Deano successfully underwent surgery to remove cataracts from both eyes. In March, Deano returned to the sea lion pool after getting a clean bill of health from his veterinary ophthalmologist.

"He made a complete recovery from the procedure and was back to being the Deano we all knew and loved so much," said Schaefer. "He was spending his days barking at Cali and Kamia and getting to know our newest addition to the group, Astro a young male who arrived a few weeks ago."

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