Babette, star of the seal tank at MUN's Ocean Science Centre, dies

·2 min read
Babette the seal, who lived at the Memorial University Ocean Sciences Centre for more than 30 years, died Thursday. (Memorial University Ocean Sciences/Facebook - image credit)
Babette the seal, who lived at the Memorial University Ocean Sciences Centre for more than 30 years, died Thursday. (Memorial University Ocean Sciences/Facebook - image credit)
Memorial University Ocean Sciences/Facebook
Memorial University Ocean Sciences/Facebook

Babette, a harp seal and one of the stars of Memorial University's Ocean Sciences Centre in Logy Bay for more than 30 years, has died.

Babette, widely known as Babs, was brought to the centre from the Magellan Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as part of a research program in 1989.

"She was a sweetheart. She had a great personality, she was always very soft and engaging. You never had to worry about her," Danielle Nichols, research marketing manager and academic program officer for MUN's ocean sciences department, told CBC Radio's The Broadcast Thursday.

Her health had been declining in recent months, but Nichols said Babs has lived a full life.

"She was great. She was inquisitive, but she was the boss of the compound and all the boys knew it."

Nichols said Thursday was an emotional day at the centre, with many students, volunteers and researchers sharing their stories of Babette on social media.

One of those scientists — Jack Lawson — was part of the team who brought Babette to the centre.

He even helped name her after a french maid.

"She was a 'big boned girl'," Lawson wrote in a tweet. "When we put her in the back of the cargo aircraft, it almost tipped up on its tail!"

"So sad to hear of her passing."

Babette came to the centre carrying a pup, which Nichols said meant she was likely around seven-years-old at the time.

Unsure of her age for certain, though, scientists believe she was around 39 years old when she died.

She also had a pup in 2002 named Dene, named for the late MUN scientist Deane Renouf.

Dene still lives at the centre today.

Outside of the mammal research program, Nichols said Babette played a key role in educating people about marine mammals. The Ocean Sciences Centre is a popular spot for high-school biology classes and field trips — especially the seal tanks.

Nichols said she'll remember Babette as a soft soul who loved fish and playing training games like 'match the sample', and was able to teach her a thing or two.

"I really feel they trained me. I'd go out there and she knew it was me and she'd flick her head," she said.

"They're more like cats, they want to see what's in it for them before they're going to give you love."

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