Selkie, the oldest gray seal in captivity, passed away at the Smithsonian's National Zoo at the age of 43. She wasn't the zoo's flashiest animal - easily overshadowed by the more active sea lions next door - but few zoo residents could match her story. Born in Iceland, she was "recruited" into the US Navy when she was six months old. Yeah, that's right... she was a Navy Seal.
Which is not to say she was a member of SEAL Team 6 or anything. Instead, Selkie was trained to retrieve dropped objects, used tools (including screwdrivers), and turn valves. She was trained alongside her future mate, Gunnar (deceased 2012), with whom she had four pups after her arrival at the zoo. Two of them - Kara and Kyja - still reside there.
Photo credit: Smithsonian National Zoological Park
The US Navy no longer employees seals, though dolphins and sea lions are still in use. Condolences to the staff who were lucky to care for an extraordinary animal with an extraordinary story. I'm glad that they were able to share it with the world.