This video shows a seal that waves and blows a kiss to the camera as it lolls in a deserted aquarium.
The venue is appealing to the public for funds to keep its 5,000 animals fed during lockdown.
Gray Beauty has been at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead New York since 1997 but the tourist destination is now struggling to look after its animals after laying off 200 members of staff.
Just 25 caretakers remain to feed the animals and administer medication while wearing face masks and staying 6ft away from one another.
In the sweet clip filmed during the shutdown, Gray Beauty flaps its flippers to wave to New Yorkers staying home then lunges forward to plant a wet kiss on the camera.
Staff at the aquarium are taking extra precautions after a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19.
They work in shifts to reduce the chances of infecting each other, wear gloves when touching the animals and have sanitizing stations for their boots at the entrance to all habitats.
Executive director Bryan DeLuca admitted that the aquarium is under “tremendous duress” due to social distancing guidelines.
“Our main source of revenue is from ticket sales.
“Without ticket sales, we have had to lay off 90 per cent of our staff – about 200 people.
“The 25 skilled animal care staff we have left are taking care of our precious animals.
“They take care of their dietary needs, provide their meds and maintain their environments.
“You have to maintain certain temperatures and salinity in tanks – a 5 degree change can kill animals.
“Without the revenue coming in, we are under tremendous duress.
“The cost of feeding all our animals is about $25,000 a month.
“We have 5,000 animals.
“We are taking care of Californian sea lions, local seals, sharks, a full array of tropical fish, exotic fish, local fish, spider crabs and lobsters, porcupines, monkeys and otters.
“It is a litany of animals, some that are rescues, others that have been donated.
“We also take care of bugs and butterflies.
“We maintain their habitats and keep them healthy and alive.”
In addition to the animals that are usually viewed by the public, the aquarium also houses the New York Marine Rescue Center which looks after endangered sea turtles, seals and dolphins.
The aquarium’s GoFundMe campaign has raised over $25,000 so far which equates to a month’s worth of food for the animals.
“Our first request was for $25k and that will sustain us for about a month,” DeLuca said.
“We may have to revisit it.”
The director added that the aquarium was offering freebies and discounts to keep money coming in.
“We are selling memberships online and if you buy a membership you get two free tickets.
“We have a Hyatt hotel next door and we are selling packages with them at a deep 50 percent discount.
“We are trying to give people as many options as possible.”
The Long Island Aquarium does not receive government funding and relies on ticket sales to cover the costs of looking after its animals and paying its staff.
“We are not a government funded facility – most aquariums and museums are government funded,” DeLuca explained.
“We will manage the back-end the best we can.”
DeLuca added that the remaining staff are dedicated to caring for the aquarium’s animals during the uncertainty.
“This team just loves the animals like they are their own domestic pets,” he said.
“They maintain the habitats, they are engaged with them all the time.
“Our staff are providing all the loving care to the animals.”
DeLuca was confident that the aquarium would survive the pandemic as long as it was able to open its doors to the public by July 4th.
“I’m optimistic,” he said. “We are obviously going to trickle back.
“Are we going to be full swing for July 4th?
“That would be good news for us.
“If we are not back in business by July or August then we have a whole other set of circumstances to deal with.”
Readers can donate to the Long Island Aquarium’s GoFundMe campaign here – https://www.gofundme.com/f/qan7qw-coronavirus-help.