Oscar, the old grey seal who has become a familiar sight on the beach of Belgium’s coastal resort De Haan, has died, the local fire service has confirmed.
Oscar, estimated to be 20-25 years old, first made a regular appearance basking on the beach at De Haan in 2019 and immediately caused a sensation. At two metres long and around 200kg, he was an impressive sight as he lay sunning himself on the beach.
And though it’s never advised to approach such beasts, Oscar seemed not to mind, submitting willingly to photos and selfies as long as his fans never blocked the sun.
He quickly became a ward of the NorthSealTeam, an organisation that looks after marine mammals on the coast, who did as much as possible to protect him from the intrusion he himself never seemed to mind.
Earlier today the group posted an official message:
“Our mascot Oscar is no more. This morning Oscar was found dead in De Haan and was transferred to [the Royal Institute for Natural Sciences] for further investigation. His final resting place was also in De Haan.,” the group informed members.
“During his last year of life, whenever he came to rest on the beach, Oscar was protected by all members of the NorthSealTeam in order to give him the necessary rest that he so sorely needed. We expected this sad news every day and yet it hits all our volunteers on the Belgian coast quite hard. Oscar can finally enjoy the peace he so desperately needed.”
The death of Oscar comes as a shock but not a surprise, explains Luc David of the team.
“Oscar was really old, maybe between 20 and 25 years. He first showed up two years ago and we have always done everything we can to give him the rest he needed. We kept tourists away and gave out information,” he told Het Nieuwsblad.
“Oscar was a unique attraction on the coast and his final resting place was also on our coast, in De Haan. We are actually happy at the same time. Because we were able to help Oscar, took good care of him, and because we have certainty about his death. He passed away peacefully. If he never showed up again, that would be all the worse.”
The post-mortem of Oscar’s remains will be undertaken by Jan Haelters of the Royal Institute in Brussels.
“There will be an investigation later, but Oscar certainly died of natural causes,” he said. “He was really old. I think any grey seal would wish to live so long. They won't get older than him, he's on the upper limit. He may look big, but he was rather skinny. He had already lost many teeth and the ones that were there turned out to be damaged. Certainly since his first appearance he has lost a lot of weight.”
Even when he first appeared in 2019, people were worried about his condition, and wondered whether he might not better be put to sleep.
“That is of course not the case. And look: he still had a good life for two more years and found food,” Haelters said.
If you see an animal in need at the Belgian coast, contact the NorthSealTeam on +32 491 74 32 78, by phone, text or WhatsApp, or follow them on Facebook for regular updates.