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Sea lion dies at St. Louis Zoo

Updated 2:10 p.m. Aug. 23 with cause of death

One of the country's top professional associations for zoos and aquariums says people should not be worried about the quality of care at the St. Louis Zoo, despite the death of another animal there.

A sea lion, named R.J., died Sunday after performing in one of the Zoo's sea lion shows. A cause of death had not been determined as of Monday. The Zoo announced Tuesday, following a necropsy by the Zoo's pathologist, that R.J. died from heart failure, but that more information about an underlying cause would not be available for several weeks.

This the second animal death this year at the Zoo, and the sixth in the last two and a half years. But Steve Kaufman, the spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, says it's not an unusual occurrence.

"Different animals die for different reasons, sometimes they're old or sick," Kaufman said. "Sometimes the timing is coincidental, but when you're talking about a chimpanzee or a grizzly bear or a sea lion, there's really no connection."

Kaufman says animals will often hide weakness from the keepers out of instinct.

A Zoo spokeswoman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that R.J. was acting normally before the show, but the trainer noticed strange behavior during the performance. She did not elaborate.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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