On this Veterans Day, we pause to remember Selkie, a 43-year-old gray seal who lived at National Zoo and died there yesterday. A genuine Navy seal, Selkie once trained at the U.S. Naval Ocean Systems Center in San Diego.
Military service wasn't Selkie's only mark of distinction. She was also the world's oldest captive gray seal, living well past the 25-30 year lifespan of her species in the wild.
At just six months old, Selkie trained with the U.S. Navy during the Cold War. With a seal's ability to dive some 1,000 feet and stay underwater for up to 20 minutes, she was a natural at retrieving things from the ocean floor. She could insert and remove equipment, turn wheel valves and even use a screwdriver.
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Selkie was born in Iceland in November 1973. She came to National Zoo from the Navy in 1979 and had been under special care at the zoo in recent months, after an exam turned up abdominal masses. The zoo reports her exact cause of death is unknown and that a final pathology report should provide definitive answers.