New England Aquarium

Rescued Fur Seal Pup Finds a Home at New England Aquarium


The staff at the New England Aquarium got a real-life gift from the "North Pole" this month - a rescued Northern Fur Seal pup arrived from the Alaska SeaLife Center. (The pup traveled by FedEx cargo plane, not Santa's sleigh!)


Photo Credit:  New England Aquarium

ZooBorns first reported on the pup's rescue
 here.  The pup, named Chiidax, was left in a box at the Alaska Fish & Game office on the remote Aleutian Island of Sand Point with a note attached stating that its mother died while giving birth.  

Officials whisked the underwight, dehydrated pup to the Alaska SeaLife Center 500 miles away, where he quickly doubled his weight under their expert care.  Because he was hand-raised and his exact birth area was unknown, the staff determined that Chiidax could not be released back into the wild.  Luckily, the New England Aquarium has a successful breeding program for Northern Fur Seals and was eager to bring Chiidax to its Fur Seal exhibit.

Chiidax has a playmate ready to meet him at the aquarium - Kit, a female Fur Seal born in August. Aquarium officials expect Chiidax to move into their harborside Seal exhibit sometime in January.

Northern Fur Seal populations have declined over the past decades.  They are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


UPDATE: Good News from the New England Aquarium!

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Just last week we shared the happy news about New England Aquarium's Northern Fur Seal pup (see our first story here), and already there is more good news to share: it's a girl! All the marine mammal trainers wanted to give mom and baby some space after the birth so the pair could bond and rest. After a couple days, the trainers did a closer examination on the pup and determined her sex. She's also tipping the scales at 11 pounds now! The pup continues to nurse, call and grow stronger every day in her cozy behind-the-scenes space she shares with mom, Ursula. The pup will remain behind the scenes until this fall, but visitors can still see dad Isaac and big brother Flaherty on exhibit.

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Northern Fur Seal Pup Bonds with Mom at New England Aquarium


The New England Aquarium certainly has something to cheer about. A Northern Fur Seal pup was born late on Tuesday, August 6. The pup's mom, Ursula, was observed going into labor by an engineer. When trainers arrived, Ursula had given birth to the pup. By the morning, the two were observed calling back and forth to each other, a sign that they had bonded well overnight.


The pup is Ursula's second. Ursula demonstrated great maternal instinct with her first pup, born in July of 2012. Ursula has been tolerant of trainers being near her pup, but they don't want to break that trust by handling the pup too early. Subsequently, the sex and weight of the pup has not been determined.

New England Aquarium is home to the largest collection of the the rare Northern Fur Seals in North America. These animals are characterized by a thick coat of fur that help to keep them warm in the cold waters of their native habitat, the Northern Pacific. Despite being protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the world population has continued to decline. They are currently listed as Vulnerable.

8 Pound Pup is First in Breeding Program for Rare Species

Baby Fur Seal and Mom NEAQ 4

Babies often arrive at the most inopportune times! Tuesday night just before midnight, New England Aquarium’s overnight engineer, realized that Ursula, a sweet 14-year-old Northern Fur Seal, might be in labor. She immediately made a phone call, and shortly thereafter, several marine mammal trainers and veterinary staff arrived. They found Ursula in a corner with her newborn pup, which was searching for its mother’s nipples. With some maternal direction and repositioning, the dark brown, 8 lb. pup finally found mother’s milk and settled down for some nursing and bonding. Kathy Streeter, the Aquarium’s marine mammal curator, was thrilled with Ursula’s maternal instincts and care, particularly since this was her first pup.

Baby Fur Seal and Mom NEAQ 2

Baby Fur Seal and Mom NEAQ 1Photo and video credits: New England Aquarium

The birth was the first in the Aquarium’s dedicated program for rare Northern Fur Seals. The newborn is only the 13th Northern Fur Seal to be found in an American aquarium or zoo. Seven of those animals make the New England Aquarium’s new, harbor-side pinniped exhibit their home. Several years ago as the Aquarium planned for the construction of its $11 million New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center, staff made a strategic decision to gather Northern Fur Seals from around the country and start a dedicated breeding program.

See and learn more below the fold

Continue reading "8 Pound Pup is First in Breeding Program for Rare Species " »

Name an Orphan Fur Seal Pup!

Fur Seal Pup Front and Center

A few months ago, this tiny Northern Fur Seal pup was found alone in a tangle of seaweed on a beach in California, severely underweight and blind in one eye. His coat was in poor shape, mottled with orange under fur showing where his dark brown guard hairs should be (you can see this in the photos). This means it would be hard for him to stay warm in chilly ocean waters. Luckily the youngster was rescued by a marine mammal program in Santa Barbara. After careful examination, it was determined he could not be returned to the wild. 

The New England Aquarium, which already had five other Fur Seals as companions, stepped up to welcome this seal in need. The pup arrived at the Aquarium via FedEx on May 19, weighing about 20 pounds. For now he'll remain behind the scenes at the New Balance Marine Mammal Center so trainers can make sure he’s comfortable and eating well. The addition of the young pup makes the New England Aquarium’s Northern Fur Seal colony the largest of any zoo or aquarium in North America.

Fur Seal Pup in Profile

Fur Seal Pup Looking for Attention

Fur Seal Pup ScratchingLike a good Fur Seal, he spends a lot time grooming his thick fur coat. Fur Seals are the second furriest animals on the planet with 300,000 hairs per square inch!

This little guy needs a name! Have a suggestion? Submit your entries for the naming contest before 5:00PM Eastern on Tuesday (5/29/12)

More great photos after the jump

Continue reading "Name an Orphan Fur Seal Pup!" »

Yipes! Stripes!


It's not uncommon for aquarists at New England Aquarium to find shark eggs in its Trust Family Foundation Shark and Ray Touch Tank. Often, these eggs are not fertile, but a while back, keepers collected one that hatched some five months later, ushering in the arrival of a brand new baby female Epaulette Shark. Her stunning stripes will fade over time, leaving only dark spots, but as juveniles, these solid patterns serve to confuse potential predators in the wild.


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For now, the tiny shark pup is most at ease hidden safely inside a piece of tubing in her nursery tank. Until she's old enough to join the rest of the group in the Touch Tank, visitors can meet her parents and watch for newly laid eggs!

You can read more about the epaulette shark baby and learn more about this fascinating species on the Aquarium's Exhibit Galleries Blog: Did you know they can slow down their body functions to survive in low oxygen environments?

Name a Penguin Chick in New England!

Since late May, the New England Aquarium has hatched eleven healthy African Penguin chicks in their special "hatching room." Having grown steadily since then, they are now ready for their public debut in the main exhibit.

Penguin chicks new england aquarium

With so many chicks, they are looking for help naming them. Submit your suggestions between now and Sunday, 8/22. They are looking for names that will build awareness about African Penguin conservation. For example, an older penguin was named Treasure, after the devastating MV Treasure oil spill off the coast of South Africa in 2000. Our suggestions? Pingu McHabitatdestruction or Avon Squawksdale...

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Penguin chicks new england aquarium 4

Penguin chicks new england aquarium 4

Penguin chicks new england aquarium 4Photo credits: New England Aquarium

If any of you ZooBorns readers have your suggestions picked, please let us know, and we'll share the good news on our Facebook page!