NEW BEDFORD — A beloved Buttonwood Park Zoo fixture and longtime New Bedford resident has passed away, and zookeepers are in mourning.

Zoo officials announced Thursday that Yellow, an Atlantic harbor seal who became one of the zoo's most iconic animals, died less than a week before her 40th birthday.

Yellow came to the city zoo after she was rescued from a Cape Cod beach in 1983, and exceeded her species' life expectancy by around five years.

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Yellow with zookeeper Kyle Correia. Courtesy BP Zoo
Yellow with zookeeper Kyle Correia. Courtesy BP Zoo

The seal was one of BP Zoo's oldest residents, and was known for being "very sweet, and a little sassy," according to the release.

Kristy Kaeterle and twin sister Kerry Silvia looked after Yellow for over two decades.

Kaeterle and Silvia said Yellow's quirks and sometimes silly behavior made her much loved at the zoo.

"There are so many things that we loved about her and will miss forever – like her impatient little snorts when we were taking too long with the fish that she loved so much," the pair said.

"She also had impeccable timing, knocking the pool brush out of our hands at just the right moment bringing a laugh from us, every time."

Yellow the seal with a basket
Courtesy BP Zoo


Yellow is survived by Blue, her sole living offspring, who was born in 2003.

She was the oldest female Atlantic harbor seal in a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, according to the release.

The seal knew more than 25 trained behaviors, including allowing caretakers to brush her teeth and give her eye drops.

Courtesy BP Zoo
Courtesy BP Zoo

She could also place herself on a scale and present herself for x-rays, vaccines, and blood tests, zoo officials noted.

Although she was being monitored for age-related illnesses, zookeepers recently noticed her condition deteriorating, with symptoms including a reduced appetite, lethargy, and even seizures.

Zoo leadership, animal care and veterinary teams decided to humanely euthanize Yellow due to "a major decline in her quality of life," the release noted.

Yellow floating
Courtesy BP Zoo

The seal passed peacefully surrounded by caretakers.

"It was an incredibly difficult decision; one that we did not come to lightly," said Zoo Director Gary Lunsford.

"Yellow was a wonderful ambassador for her species and beloved by so many. We know her loss will be profoundly felt by her extensive animal care team as well as the many volunteers and guests who had the pleasure of interacting with her over the last 40 years."


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