SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Hogle Zoo is grieving over the death of one of its favorite animals.
Big Guy the sea lion has died from cancer, after spending only a year in the Rocky Shores exhibit.
However, zookeepers said Big Guy lived quite a long life. Veterinarians believe Big Guy may have been in his early twenties.
Big Guy was found washed up on the shore of Southern California in 2010. He was in terrible shape back then.
"They had found him with wounds to his eyes and lacerations to his jaw leaving him completely blind and unable to return to the wild," James Weinpress, a zookeeper, said. "[It] would kind of be a death sentence so they needed a place for him to have a long term home."
Eventually, Big Guy found his home in the Beehive State and became a favorite in Hogle Zoo. According to zookeepers, he liked to play and cuddle with the two other sea lion pups in the exhibit.
Big Guy's behavior suddenly changed on July 4th.
"He stopped being hungry he really didn't want to interact with his trainer or take any food," Weinpress said.
Zoo staff sedated Big Guy to figure out what was wrong, and he stopped breathing during a treatment session.
A necropsy later found urogenital carcinoma, a common type of cancer in sea lions.
"It's very sad we worked with him every single day," Weinpress said, "he leaves a big hole in our lives."
Copyright 2013 abc4.com Nexstar Broadcasting, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.