July 25, 2005 by



Categories: Misc.

Mira, Copyright 2005 - Michael Durham, Oregon Zoo. Used with permissionMira, the blind elephant seal who was a popular attraction at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, died on July 24. She was approximately three-and-a-half years old.
Mira was only six months old when she was found stranded on a northern California beach in 2002. Veterinarians at the North Coast Marine Mammal Center in Crescent City, Calif., took in the female seal and soon discovered that her retinas were underdeveloped. Due to this condition, the center decided Mira should not be returned to the wild, and asked the Oregon Zoo to care for her.
For the past three years, Mira has resided in the zoo’s Steller Cove exhibit with her two sea lion companions, Julius and Gus. To work around her visual impairment, marine life keepers learned how to feed and train her using tactile and audio cues, rather than visual ones. They placed noise-making beads on a target-training pole and blew a whistle to call Mira for feedings.
Since the Stellar Cove exhibit was not designed to be used by visually-impaired animals, Mira had trouble getting in and out of her tank for feedings and physical examinations. To fix this problem, the zoo asked the Mechanical Engineering Department at Portland State University to design a system that would allow her to get in and out of the pool unharmed without having to raise the water level in the habitat. In May 2004, the student design team produced a lightweight, aluminum and plastic seal ramp. When the ramp was placed at the edge of Mira’s tank, two zookeepers could easily pull the 325-pound seal out of the water.
“Mira was an awesome animal to work with. We learned a lot not only about elephant seals, but also about working with an animal with special needs. She was more responsibility because of her special needs, but it was a pleasure,” said marine life keeper Karen Rifenbury.
Although Mira was undergoing treatment for an eye infection, her condition was not considered life-threatening. A necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of her death.

2 Responses to Mira

  1. Rebecca

    I volenteer at the ORegon zoo and was devistated to hear that she had passsed away… when i saw the photo of her i reconized her instantly. The exibit isn’t the same without her.

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