One of the few remaining sea lions at Napier's Marineland has died.
Rufus, a California sea lion, died on his way to see a vet in Palmerston North yesterday.
Napier City Council tourism services manager Neil Fergus said Rufus was being taken to Massey University for a check-up after he started showing signs of illness on Friday.
Massey staff are doing an autopsy to determine the seal's cause of death.
Rufus was born in December 22 2004, and died just short of his eighth birthday.
That leaves just 10 seals and sea lions remaining in Napier's closed Marineland.
The council and the Conservation Department are still deciding what to do with the animals now that the little penguins have moved into a purpose-built home at the National Aquarium.
Earlier this year, a High Court ruling upheld the council's decision to close the attraction, which shut in April 2009.
Council chief executive Neil Taylor said the council was still working through what would happen to the animals. It had to shelve discussions on the future of the Marineland site and animals while it was before the court.
Mr Taylor said all options would be explored. Nothing had been ruled out, and euthanising the seals was also a possibility.
He did not know how long a decision would take.
Conservation Department area manager Chris Lester said relocating the animals to another facility such as Auckland Zoo or an Australian animal park was the preferred option.
The closed Marineland site could be transformed into a cable-ski park if the council's proposal to transform Napier's foreshore into a "kids' capital" got financial backing.
- © Fairfax NZ News