DENVER (CBS4)– A sea lion at the Denver Zoo that attracted a lot of attention has died.

Bismark, the male California sea lion, passed away on August 22. He was believed to be about five years old.

Bismark was well known because he was missing back flippers but he was able to swim just as easily as the zoo’s other sea lions.

He died under anesthesia while he was being prepared for surgery to remove a testicle that hadn’t dropped. Its removal was meant to eliminate further problems for the sea lion.

As a male, Bismark would have continued to grow substantially, but because of his physical restrictions he would have developed more problems trying to move as he got bigger. Neutering him would have decreased the size he would have grown and avoided future health complications from carrying weight without back flippers.

Although any anesthesia has risks to marine mammals such as sea lions, veterinarians didn’t anticipate problems with his surgery because he was in good overall health.

They will perform a necropsy to determine if there were contributing factors that led to his loss.

Bismarck was a relatively new, but very popular resident of the zoo. He was found in March of 2008 as an orphaned pup missing his rear flippers by a pier at Newport Beach, California. After being rescued and rehabilitated by the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) it was determined he was not a candidate to be released back into the wild because of his physical challenges.

He came to Denver Zoo in July of 2009, thrived and quickly became an ambassador for those with disabilities. He adapted to maneuver quite well using his front flippers and back-end.

“Bismarck taught us all something about overcoming challenges and adversity,” said Denver Zoo Vice President for Animal Collections Brian Aucone. “Many guests walked away inspired after watching him show how agile and limber he was, despite not having rear flippers. We will all miss him.”


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