Julius, a Steller sea lion at the Oregon Zoo was euthanized today because of his advanced age. He was the oldest sea lion in America, possibly the oldest in the world at 26 years of age. In the wild, male sea lions usually don't live beyond their teens.
Born July 1987, Julius was named for the month of his birth. He came from Connecticut's Mystic Aquarium to Portland in 2000, the year that the zoo opened its Stellar Cover marine life habitat.
Recently, the staff had been treating Julius for a variety of ailments including macular degeneration in both eyes and also for arthritis. As he continued to deteriorate, the decision was made to put him down.
Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey, the zoo's senior marine life keeper, had worked with Julius for more than 12 years. He commented,
"We knew he wouldn't be with us forever, but it's still hard to accept. He was such a fun animal to work with. He always kept you on your toes."
"He was very independent and definitely in charge. He was the leader. He always got the food first."
Amy Cutting, curator of the zoo's North America section, also commented:.
"Julius was an amazing, bold and confident animal. He learned quickly, and always seemed ready to move on to the next thing. We will remember him that way — with energy, confidence and bravado."
"When you care for an animal every day, for years, you forge a bond that is impossible to describe. I am so proud of the marine life keepers — they really kept it together today to do the right thing for Julius, to make sure he wasn't suffering. They are professionals. But I know they will all go home tonight and fall apart. He was a very special animal that they will never forget."
Julius is survived by his companion Gus, another Stellar sea lion, also age 26.