VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Thursday morning, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center said goodbye to companion of almost 25 years: Piper the harbor seal.
"He was a very vocal seal with a loud, beautiful bark. He was our most laid-back seal, who loved relaxing on the rocks and gliding through the water. His sweet personality will be missed at the Virginia Aquarium, as staff mourns the loss of Piper," a spokesperson wrote.
The 29-year-old seal had already lived 5-10 years past his species' life expectancy (they survive to be about 20 or 25 years old in the wild), and a release from the aquarium said his longevity spoke to the dedication of his caretakers.
A release from the aquarium said Piper's health had been declining for the last few weeks, and while he initially showed signs of progress, the seal died peacefully Thursday morning.
Piper was born in captivity at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut in 1991, and was transferred to the Virginia Beach aquarium in 1996, with four of his brothers.
"He was a favorite of our marine mammal trainers, and often made them and our guests smile with his loud bark and swirly paintings," the release said. "Often, Piper made his presence known by splashing guests as they strolled by the seal habitat."