A 60-stone Patagonian sea lion, at the centre of a political scandal which saw vandals attack the Isle of Man’s then Agriculture Minister’s house 20 years ago, has died.
Orry the sea lion was raised as a pup at the Curraghs Wildlife Park but in 1994 his sale for £2,000 to Ravensden Zoo in the UK was authorised by Agriculture Minister John Corrin.
Malcolm Walkden, his keeper at the Wildlife Park had offered to match the purchase price to secure Orry’s future and ensure a suitable home was found for him.
However, soon afterwards, Orry was again sold – this time for a reported £4,000 – and was later traced by the Mail on Sunday to a French travelling circus where he was said to be emaciated and living in unsuitable conditions.
Protests erupted in the Isle of Man and he was bought - this time for £12,000, underwritten by the Manx government - and returned to the UK to recuperate at an RSPCA centre before taking up permanent residence at Dudley Zoo in the West Midlands where he died recently.
A spokesman for the zoo said: ‘He was a great character and very very popular with the visitors. There will be a lot of people saddened by the news.’
She added Orry had been off colour for a few days and was receiving treatment from the vet. A post mortem examination had been carried out but no results had yet been compiled however, at 22, Orry was close to the average life expectancy for his species.
In 1994 Orry’s sale and subsequent rescue from the circus caused a political furore of cataclysmic proportions. Mr Corrin said Ravensden Zoo had betrayed his trust but faced a no confidence vote, which he survived. He later resigned as Agriculture Minister.
At the height of the row, Mr Corrin’s home in Port Erin was targeted and he was called home to find prize fish in his garden pond had been poisoned with cyanide.