In late February, two Baltic Grey Seal pups were born in Kolmården Wildlife Park in Sweden. The male and female half-siblings weighed in at 17 kilos each at birth.
The pups were born well developed, and in just a couple of weeks, they will be independent, thanks to both of their mother’s nourishing milk.
Keepers report they are happy to see such a wide variety of natural behaviors in their animals. Giving birth and rearing their young is one of the most important behaviors in the animal’s life. Giving them the opportunity means the Park can maintain a high animal welfare.
The male has been given the name Evert, and his sister has been named Eivor.
The proud and protective mothers are Liivi and Vinja and the father to both, who still has to keep some distance from the pair, is named Sten (“the rock” in Swedish).
Grey Seals enjoy swimming and at Kolmården Wildlife Park they have a 9-meter deep pool to swim in. Even though Eivor and Evert haven’t lost their pup fur yet, they have taken short swims. As soon as they loose their protective fur they will leave the cliffs and spend more and more time in the water.
The Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus, meaning "hooked-nosed sea pig") is native to both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a large seal of the family Phocidae or "true seals". It is the only species classified in the genus Halichoerus. Its name is spelled ‘Gray Seal’ in the US, but it is also known as Atlantic Seal and the Horsehead Seal.
The Grey Seal feeds on a wide variety of fish, mostly benthic or demersal species, taken at depths down to 70 m (230 ft.) or more. The average daily food requirement is estimated to be 5 kg (11 lbs.), though the Seal does not feed every day and it fasts during the breeding season.
In the wild, pups are born in autumn (September to November) in the eastern Atlantic and in winter (January to February) in the west, with a dense, soft silky white fur; at first small, they rapidly fatten up on their mothers' extremely fat-rich milk. The milk can consist of up to 60% fat. Within a month or so, they shed the pup fur, grow dense waterproof adult fur, and leave for the sea to learn to fish for themselves.
The Grey Seal is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. According to the IUCN: “Numerous countries have invoked protective measures to limit Grey Seal harvests, culls, disturbance, and by-catch (Bonner 1981, ICES 2005). Pollutant loads in Baltic Grey Seals have declined following regulations banning the use and discharge of toxic pollutants such as DDT and PCBs beginning in the 1970s. Although the prevalence of colonic ulcers has increased over the last decades, the reproductive health of female Grey Seals has improved, as has the population level in the Baltic (Bergman et al. 2001). Establishment of coastal marine reserves for Seals in Norway have been more effective in protecting Harbour Seals than Grey Seals because the latter are more likely to travel outside the areas closed to fisheries and become entangled in nets (Bjørge et al. 2002).”