The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is mourning the loss of one of its long-term and much-loved sea lions.

Diego, who quickly became popular with visitors and staff passed away on December 17 due to various health issues.

In October, Diego experienced issues paraphimosis, a urologic emergency which caused extreme inflammation and required urgent medical intervention. However, despite initial success, a second setback in recent days saw him develop more complications, despite a quick response from the team and local veterinary partners.

The team at the sanctuary in Gweek made the difficult decision to put Diego to sleep to ensure he did not needlessly suffer without hope of a full recovery.

Falmouth Packet: Diego and his brother Noito Diego and his brother Noito (Image: Cornish Seal Sanctuary)Diego first arrived at the sanctuary in 2009 along with his brother Noito. He quickly became popular with visitors and staff for his playfulness. When Noito died, Diego had lots of one-to-one interaction with the team, often learning to play with new enrichment toys and his hose plait toys.

He was also said to have had a ‘cheeky nature’, particularly at the end of his training sessions. A spokesperson said: “Diego loved to push boundaries – for example, at the end of training sessions, Diego knew he would have to stay in the water whilst the animal care team left the enclosure.

“However, instead he would always walk up the steps towards the team until they stopped and looked at him; he knew he was being cheeky and would slowly slip into the water, head resting on the side of the pool, and waiting for the last big handful of fish, letting him know he has been a good boy.”

Falmouth Packet: Diego was much loved not only by visitors, but the Cornish Seal Sanctuary team Diego was much loved not only by visitors, but the Cornish Seal Sanctuary team (Image: Cornish Seal Sanctuary)On Tuesday (December 19) the Seal Sanctuary paid tribute to Diego in a post on Facebook. It reads: “Diego will no doubt leave a large void at the Sanctuary, especially for those who cared for him daily.

“Just as the team was there for him, Diego was always there for them, too. He knew many a secret and would always be there for a little chin scratch - a bright spot, even on a bad day.

“As we say goodbye to Diego, we would like to thank everyone so supportive to our animal care team at this hard time, and the wider Cornish Seal Sanctuary team, who will miss him so much.

Please pop your photos in the comments, so we can share your happy memories with our team.”

More than 300 comments have now been left on the post, with many people sharing pictures of Diego. Tiffany Collins commented: “Oh no! Bless his heart. I only got to see him for the first time last year. I loved him!

“Thank you for taking such amazing care of him and his brother. You guys do amazing work there. RIP Diego. Thank you for all the memories you gave us all. Rest easy sweet boy." 

Liz Wilkes commented: “That's so sad. So truly sorry to hear that. He was a real character and we lived to visit him whenever we were in Cornwall.”