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HomeLifestyleNational Zoo's Beloved California Sea Lion Calli Died, Keepers Say

National Zoo’s Beloved California Sea Lion Calli Died, Keepers Say


The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute announced Thursday that Calli, a female California sea lion, died at the facility on September 7. 

Calli was 17 years old and the median life expectancy for the species is between 15 and 20 years, according to Zoo officials

Zoo keepers found her dead during routine wellness checks in the afternoon. A necropsy performed on Calli showed lesions in her gastrointestinal tract and respiratory system. More details are expected to be revealed after a full pathology report in the coming weeks.

Calli was born in the wild and arrived at the Zoo in 2006 when she was one-year-old, after being rescued and hand-raised by people. 

She was part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP) for California sea lions. The program works on maintaining a self-sustaining population in human care.

In 2016, she gave birth to Catalina, who became the first sea lion pup born at the Zoo in 32 years. Her second pup, Celia, was born in 2019.

Last May, an ultrasound confirmed Calli was pregnant again. But she turned out to have experienced late-term fetal loss, according to another ultrasound a month later. 

Veterinarians anesthetized Calli on September 6, one day before her death, and performed a full exam to evaluate her abdomen and reproductive health. The results were normal and she started behaving and eating normally later that evening, the Zoo said.

Visitors to the Zoo can view the three-year-old Celia and two adult female sea lions, Summer and Sidney, at the American Trail exhibit.

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