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January 28, 2012 The El Paso Zoo is mourning the loss of its oldest California Sea Lion, 25-year-old Cleo. Cleo passed away on Thursday evening after an examination which required her to be sedated. Zoo keepers and zoo veterinarians had been keeping a close eye on Cleo after noticing a decreased appetite and some weight lost in the past few months. 

Veterinary and sea lion staff suspected an illness and had attempted to take a blood sample without sedation and were unsuccessful. Zoo keepers condition/train animals on a daily basis, as seen during the zoo's sea lion presentation, in an attempt to accomplish procedures like blood draws without more risky sedation if possible. Veterinary staff made the decision to perform a full examination with sedation because Cleo had progressed to a point where it was necessary. 

Anesthetic complications occurred during the procedure and Cleo did not recover well. A necropsy (animal autopsy) was performed by veterinary staff in an attempt to determine the cause of death and the initial illness. Final results are pending. 

"Zoo staff is deeply saddened to have lost Cleo. The loss of one of our beloved animals is always difficult for our staff who truly love and bond with our animals. Cleo will be greatly missed," said Steve Marshall, Zoo Director. 

As is routine with a sea lion death, zoo staff has notified our United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinarian as well as our accrediting body, the Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA). 

Cleo came to the El Paso Zoo from the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in March 2004. The zoo's remaining Sea lions are 13-year-old Sushi and 25-year-old Sunny. 

Locally recognized as the Best Place to Take the Kiddos, the El Paso Zoo sits on 35 acres of fun and adventure. Bigger and better than ever, the El Paso Zoo is an expansive green space that is home to exotic animals from around the world and features family attractions such as the African Star train and the Hunt Family Desert Spring. Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the El Paso Zoo celebrates the value of animals and natural resources and creates opportunities for people to rediscover their connection to nature. For more information, visit For news and exclusive content, follow us on Facebook ( and YouTube ( 

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