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`Sandy` will celebrate a big birthday. (Photos courtesy of the Aquarium of Niagara)
"Sandy" will celebrate a big birthday. (Photos courtesy of the Aquarium of Niagara)

Rescued harbor seal turns 40: Aquarium of Niagara to offer weekend of celebrations


Wed, Jul 29th 2020 07:00 am

The Aquarium of Niagara is planning a weekend-long celebration for one of its rescued harbor seals in honor of her 40th birthday.

“Sandy” was rescued off the coast of Washington state in 1980 as an abandoned pup. Abandoned harbor seal pups do not have the skills necessary to survive in their natural environment, so Sandy was deemed non-releasable and brought to the Aquarium of Niagara.

Sandy became famous in 1987 when she became the first harbor seal in the world to undergo a successful cataract removal surgery. Cataracts are common among pinnipeds like seals and sea lions, and the successful surgery restored vision to Sandy’s right eye and alleviated any discomfort caused by the cataract.

The groundbreaking surgery was performed right at the Aquarium of Niagara. This procedure is now widely practiced at zoos and aquariums around the world.

The average lifespan of a harbor seal is 20-25 years, which means Sandy has lived double the amount of time she would be expected to survive in her natural environment. She is checked weekly by the aquarium’s veterinarians, and receives daily husbandry care like vitamins and medications, tooth brushing and nail clippings.

“Sandy’s 40th birthday is truly a testament to the high level of care provided at the Aquarium of Niagara,” Executive Director Gary Siddall said. “Sandy has been an integral part of the aquarium for four decades, and we are thankful for the opportunity to help her celebrate her golden years in comfort and good health.”

Sandy’s birthday celebrations will take place on Saturday and Sunday. Celebrations will include the presentation of an elaborate ice cake at noon on both days. Aquarium visitors will have the opportunity to purchase themed cookies, a Sandy-themed “Aquaparent” adoption package, and a commemorative Sandy plush.

The venue is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at 701 Whirlpool St., Niagara Falls. Due to COVID-19-related capacity restrictions, visitors are strongly encouraged to purchase admission tickets online ahead of their visit.

The Aquarium of Niagara is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is home to more than 120 different species, including 10 rescued and non-releasable marine mammals. For more information, visit www.aquariumofniagara.org.

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