The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, has announced its first birth of 2014: a Grey Seal pup that also happens to be the first of its species ever born at the zoo. The male pup was born on New Year’s Day around 7:00 a.m. He and his mother, ten-year-old Lily, will remain off exhibit for several weeks to allow them time to bond with one another.
At birth, the pup weighed just over 25 pounds (11.3 kg), and staff estimate that he will triple or quadruple his weight in the next month. Because the mom’s milk is extremely rich, the pup will gain several pounds a day. He will nurse from Lily for about two to three weeks and then will be introduced to a fish diet.
Grey Seal pups are born with long white fur called lanugo (pronounced la-noo-go), which is molted in two to four weeks and replaced with shorter, stiffer hair similar to that of adults. Although guests will most likely not be able to see the pup on exhibit before he molts, video of the pup can be seen on the monitor located in the Seven Seas Underwater Viewing gallery.
Brookfield Zoo is now home to six Grey Seals, the most in any North American institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This birth, as well as the pup’s gender, is significant to the overall North American population, which consists of only five males and 17 females. Rita Stacey, curator of marine mammals for the Society, is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums studbook keeper for Grey Seals. In this role, Stacey documents the pedigree and entire demographic history of each individual in the Grey Seal population. These collective histories are known as the population's genetic and demographic identity and are invaluable tools that track and manage each individual cared for in North American institutions.
Grey Seals can be found abundantly in coastal waters and are divided into three separate populations: the Western North Atlantic, the Eastern North Atlantic, and the Baltic Sea.