Aquarium celebrating seal's 40th birthday

Sandy, a harbor seal at Aquarium of Niagara, soaks up some sun in the outdoor pool in 2015. (James Neiss/staff photographer).

The Aquarium of Niagara is planning a weekend-long birthday celebration for one of its rescued harbor seals "Sandy," who's turning 40. 

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

“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 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," said Executive Director Gary Siddall.

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