The El Paso Zoo tweeted the following today: The El Paso Zoo is mourning the loss of our beloved Sunny, the sea lion.
Times reporter Adriana Chavez reported, "One of El Paso's most popular zoo animals, Sunny the sea lion, died Sunday night following age-related medical issues that kept him sidelined for two weeks.
"El Paso Zoo officials who made the announcement Monday afternoon said Sunny, a 26-year-old California sea lion, died in a holding pool as he was being closely monitored by zoo keepers.
"About two weeks ago, officials announced Sunny would not be making any public presentations because he fell ill. He was placed in a "behind the scenes pool" that gave the zoo's medical team easier access to care for him, officials said."
"Sunny was born at the zoo on June 12, 1986, and quickly became one of the zoo's most popular attractions. In his last days, zoo keepers gave him extra attention, said zoo area supervisor Amanda Leverett."
"Fans of Sunny are invited to drop off rememberances at the zoo's front gate or at the sea lion exhibit. Photos may also be shared on the zoo's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/elpasozoo."
Some El Paso sea lion history
El Paso's first sea lions arrived at Washington Park Zoo June 22, 1956
In May 1958 Park Superintendent Bryce Lammert launched "Operation Sea Lion."
Lammert organized a a group of park workers and charter a boat into the Gulf of California to hunt for sea lions.
Lammert was quoted, "Sea lions are quite expensive when you buy them. We hope to save money by catching eight or 10 baby sea lions for the Washington Park Zoo. Then El Pasoans can watch them grow."
Unfortunately they planned their trip about a month late and Lammert dislocated his shoulder but the group managed to bring two seals back to El Paso.
Photo: 05/20/1958 - Zoo employe Rudy Romero gently feeds a handful of fish bits soaked in cod-liver oil to the Washington Park Zoo's baby sea lion, captured Saturday in the Gulf of California. Employes also fed the youngster with a baby bottle.
Reported May 21, 1958
The two sea lions brought back from the Gulf of California Sunday are reported adjusting to the seal
pond at Washington Park Zoo. The larger of the two has been placed in the pond with the sea lion already at the zoo and Bryce Lammert, Parks Superintendent, says they're becoming fast friends.
Less than a week later on May 27th, "Jorge, baby sea lion at Washington Park zoo, has died.
"The animal, in good health until Friday, lost two ounces on that day and died Saturday. He had
been fed with a bottle."
On June 17, 1959 another sea lion expedition was planned.
The four men on the trip where stranded for 18 hours when the batteries went out on their motorboat.
The group returned with one baby sea lion. This prompted one taxpayer to ask why th eCity would spend $241 on the expedition when a sea lion could be purchased for $125.
Mr. Lammert replied "That's right. But we had hoped to bring back six adult sea lions, which
would have made them cheaper. It's like going fishing; sometimes you don't catch anything."
However the publicity over the trip prompted the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque to offer a two-year-old sea lion to the Washington Park Zoo as a gift.
As it stood then the zoo had two adult sea lions - George and Georgette - and tthe new baby brought back by the expedition. The Albuqueruqe sea lion would make four.
Three weeks later Lammert announced he baby sea lion had died at the zoo. He said the sea lion had been in poor health since arriving at the zoo and speculated that it may have had pneumonia.
December 28, 1960:
Park and Recreation Director Bryce Lammert said two new sea lions will be ordered to replace
the two that have died at the Washington Park Zoo.
Georgette, the female sea lion, died Sunday. The male died several weeks ago. Thy were a major
attraction at the zoo.
The sea lions suffered from respiratory trouble of some kind, Mr. Lammert said.
In 1962 Sugar and Spice were added to the zoo pool.
On February 20, 1964 it was announced that Cindy the sea lion was added to the pool to keep Spicy compnay since Sugar had died seven months earlier.
By February 1971 it was Susie and neewly arrived Connie, "Lonely days are all over for Susie, the El Paso Zoological Garden's sea lion. Thanks to kind hearted El Pasoans, she now has a playmate, Connie, a new arrival at the zoo.
"Problems started for Susie when the Zoo's other sea lion died recently of Nephitis and old age.
"Deprived of her friend, Susie began refusing food and moping."
Sunny's dad , Sam, was a twenty-year resident of the El Paso Zoo before he died in 1997. Sunny was born at the zoo in 1986.