December 17, 2019

Zoo Staff Mourn Passing of Northern Elephant Seal


(Pittsburgh) (December 2019)— With heavy hearts, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium announces the passing of its northern elephant seal, Coolio, this morning.

“Our animals are like family and today we lost a unique member,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, President & CEO. “Coolio was an amazing animal who touched not only our lives but our visitors as well. He will be missed dearly.”

Coolio passed away Tuesday morning during a veterinary procedure. Gross necropsy results indicated the seal suffered from congenital abnormalities, including blood vessel abnormalities, likely resulting in severe hypertension.

Coolio’s story is one of strength and determination. At just three months old, Coolio was found severely injured and near death along the California coast. It is not unusual for northern elephant seals to accidentally beach themselves at young ages as they learn to hunt for food and navigate the oceans. He was rescued by the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center (NMMC) and nursed back to health. However, the damage he sustained to his eyes left him blind. The NMMC determined that Coolio could not be released and reached out to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

Coolio adapted well to his permanent home in Pittsburgh. “He was always eager to learn and despite his disability, he made great progress,” says Paul Moylett, Curator of Aquatic Life.

When the Zoo rescued a second northern elephant seal, Ellie Mae, keepers wondered how Coolio would react. “He was cautious at first,” says Moylett. “But he adapted quickly. He and Ellie Mae got along very well.”

Elephant seals were almost hunted to extinction, mostly for their blubber. Today their populations total close to 150,000 with 124,000 seals living off the California coasts.

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is American Humane Conservation-certified, a member of American Humane, and a member of the Zoological Association of America. For more information, visit