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Zoo Keepers mourning loss of sister sea lions before opening weekend

Fishbone and Grits died in the last month.

Posted: Apr. 19, 2019 8:14 PM
Updated: Apr. 22, 2019 9:26 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - Zoo keepers and trainers are mourning the loss of two sea lions.

Fishbone and Grits died in the last month.

Their deaths are hitting staff members so close to opening day.

"Everyday was a great day," said Fishbone's trainer Rachel Percell. "We had a really good relationship. Thanks to that relationship, we were able to do a lot of the medical behaviors that really helped her."

Fishbone died Wednesday during a medical procedure at the zoo.

Dr. Cami Fox is one of the vets at the zoo.

She said Fishbone got sick last month, but in the last few weeks she wasn't using her back flippers much.

Fox said they were trying to do a bunch of testing so they could properly diagnose fishbone.

"We did all of the rescue measures that you would do, even for a person. We breathed for her, we did compressions, but we could not revive her," she said.

"She had a trusting behavior that even when she wasn't feeling good, she wanted to do anything she could to please," said Percell.

Fishbone and Grits were born at sea world in 2001 and moved to Fort Wayne the following year.

Zoo staff said Grits had to be euthanized on March 30 because she wasn't responding to treatments for her illness.

"Really I hate to see them so close together. The loss is just that much harder for the staff," said Fox.

More than 8 million people walked by and interacted with the sisters and other sea lions in the last 16 years.

Percell said the loss has been hard on her and other zoo keepers.

"These girls were great. I'm very lucky to have had such a good relationship with them," said Percell.

Right now sea lions trainers are working on readjusting their show so they are ready for opening day next weekend.

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