Tommy the sea lion, one of six zoo deaths in six months

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. KRQE- If it seems like there’s an announcement every month about a zoo animal dying, that’s because there is.

Tommy the sea lion is the most recent zoo death. He was known for saluting visitors and zookeepers.

“He was a very popular animal, Tommy came to us back in 2005, he was a rescue pup,” said Baird Fleming, the Deputy Chief Executive for the ABQ Bio Park.

On Monday when staff arrived at the zoo, they noticed something was off with Tommy. Fleming said he showed signs that were concerning.

“He wasn’t acting quite right, he wasn’t eating normally, he wasn’t behaving normally,” said Fleming.

He said they rushed him to the veterinarian for observation. They decided they were going to give Tommy antibiotics, but two hours later he died suddenly.

“We sent samples of all the different organs just to make sure we don’t miss anything, so we hope to be getting those results soon,” said Fleming.

In February, a grey seal named Lady passed away, but she was 42 years old.

“Age is not a disease, and it’s’ not an excuse, but it’s also something that we’re very proud of. That’s what we want to see, we want to see our animals going far beyond what their wild counterparts,” said Fleming.

In January, a zebra died from a neck injury. Staff believes he ran into a fence. In December, they lost a koala to cancer at just 5 years old.

In November, a Tasmanian devil passed away also at age 5. In October, an African crested porcupine died.

A variety of animals, dying old and young, all from different causes. Fleming said they all had one thing in common, they were all cared for.

“If it’s in captivity, we are going to do our absolute utmost best to make sure that animal is happy, it’s healthy and it has everything it needs,” he said.

Fleming said every animal is assessed daily, and if zoo keepers spot anything they bring it to the vet’s attention immediately.

He also said they have worked on being more transparent and letting the public know when an animal is nearing their end, so they can say their goodbyes. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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