It's with a heavy heart that Daily RFT announces the passing of Bennie, the eleven-year-old sea lion famous for giving kisses during shows at the Saint Louis Zoo.
Bennie died around 1:30 p.m. Friday at the zoo's Lichtenstein Sea Lion Arena after spending two weeks in veterinary care.
The 500-pound sea lion spent his life at the Saint Louis Zoo. He was born in the zoo's Sea Lion Basin on June 15, 2002, to parents Hide and Roland, and he performed at shows for zoogoers for seven years.
"A leading ambassador for the zoo, Bennie was both the one of the stars of the Sea Lion Show and the animal who happily kissed everyone from celebrities to average citizens," the zoo said in a statement. Bennie was also known for kissing Cardinals players. "He will long be remembered for his loving nature, remarkable performances and high spirits, which delighted audiences."
Bennie died at eleven years old, although sea lions typically live until age twelve or thirteen. The zoo's pathologist will perform a necropsy and will have information on the cause of death in several weeks. While Bennie was alive, he received routine health care, the zoo says.
To mark Bennie's passing, we leave you with his small-screen debut -- an award-winning commercial for the zoo's Sea Lion Sound where Bennie gets "called up" to the big show: