HOUSTON The Houston Zoo is mourning thesudden death of Astro, a 4-year-old California sea lion.

Zookeepers knew something was wrong last Thursday when Astro appeared lethargic and refused to eat.

Astro was never one to turn down a meal and he was always a ball of energy, so when keepers saw that kind of behavior they moved quickly, said Brian Hill, Director of Public Affairs at the Houston Zoo.

Astro was rushed to the zoo hospital wherevetsconsulted with some of the most highly-respected marine mammal veterinariansin the course of Astro s care.

Sadly, they weren't able to save him.

Preliminary findings from a necropsy, an animal autopsy performed by the Zoo veterinary staff, point to severe gastroenteritis, the irritation and inflammation of the gastro intestinal tract, said Sea Lion Curator Beth Schaefer. However, a final determination will not be made until results are returned from more specific tissue analysis in a few weeks.

This is a devastating loss for everyone at the Zoo said Schaefer. Since his arrival in 2009, Astro had endeared himself to everyone who met him, from zoo guests to the sea lion keepers. Every zoo employee held a special place in their hearts for Astro.

Astro was 11 months old when he arrived at the Houston Zoo from the Long Marine Laboratory in Santa Cruz, California.

Astro came to the attention of marine mammal rescue personnel when he was discovered stranded on a beach in southern California, said Schaefer.

Rescued, examined and returned to the wild, Astro was found stranded two more times.  After his third rescue on Stinson Beach in Marin County, marine mammal rescue personnel determined he could not be released to the wild again.

Astro was taken to the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County California and then to the Long Marine Laboratory in Santa Cruz to participate in a study to assess his cognitive health before finding his a new home at the Houston Zoo.

Astro had a rough beginning, but he found a loving and caring home at the Zoo and quickly won everyone over with his friendly and spirited personality, said Schaefer.

Read or Share this story: