Seal & Sea Lion

Two Harbor Seal Pups Join the Pod at Zoo Berlin

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On a recent morning, keepers at Zoo Berlin began their daily inspection of the Harbor Seal habitat. One of the keepers’ first tasks is to perform a head count of the seven animals under their care. As they began to count, they noticed not seven pairs of dark eyes staring back at them, but eight! It soon became clear that female Shiva, age 23, gave birth to a pup during the night. A few days later, the same scenario: now there are nine Seals in the habitat! This time Molly, age 13, is the proud mother of a brand-new pup. 

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Csm_08_fb93131d5ePhoto Credit: Zoo Berlin

Zoo Berlin is home to a large extended family of Harbor Seals. Male Leopold, age 21, sired two pups last year. His sons Gregor and Herbert are still part of the group, which also includes females Lara, age 18, and Yohanna, age one. 

Harbor Seals have a gestation period of up to eleven months. Pups are born with the same smooth fur as the adults and can swim almost from birth. 

Harbor Seal pups are weaned at around two months old. “Seal pups are much more vulnerable to attack on sand banks than they are in the water, so they have to grow up quickly,” explains Zoo and Tierpark Director Dr. Andreas Knieriem. “Before too long, the newborn Seals will be almost indistinguishable from their parents.”

In the wild, these aquatic mammals are found all over the northern hemisphere – on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as in the North Sea and the Baltic. However, they are very rare on the northern European coasts. Commercial hunting of Harbor Seals was banned several decades ago in most countries around the world. Only native peoples are permitted to hunt these seals for subsistence hunting.


Sea Lion Pups Double the Excitement at UK Zoo

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ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s keepers have a couple of exciting new additions to care for, with the arrival of two California Sea Lion pups.

Adventurous male pup, Hanno, was born to first-time mum, Lara, on June 10. Laid-back male, Oakley, was born to second-time mum, Bailey, on June 23.

After giving birth at the UK’s largest Zoo, ten-year-old, Lara, and eleven-year-old, Bailey, have taken to motherhood swimmingly and are already proving to be doting mums to the lively pups.

Team Leader, Tim Savage, is overjoyed at the new arrivals and said, “The first pup was immediately so curious and adventurous, we decided to name him Hanno, after the fifth century oceanic explorer. At night he goes on little missions and explores the sea lion house!”

“Lara’s always been the cheekiest member of the group, but she’s so attentive with Hanno, never letting him out of her sight. Every time Hanno tries to go near the water, she pulls him back. This isn’t Bailey’s first pup, so she’s much more confident and relaxed. She leaves Oakley to snooze while she goes off for a swim.”

Tim continued, “They’ve both had a little splash in the pool, but neither of the pups are strong swimmers yet. Over the next month they will learn to dive, and practice holding their breath, and soon visitors will see them confidently swimming around the pool with their mums, and dad Dominic.”

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4_Hanno (2)Photo Credits: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo (Images 1-4: Hanno /Images 5-8: Oakley)

Covered in fur, the pups will eventually grow to be over two meters long. The new pups are a valuable addition to the colony of California Sea Lions at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and the European conservation breeding programme for the species.

Originating from the rocky coastlines of the Pacific Ocean, along the west coast of the USA, California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) live in large colonies, led by a dominant male and his harem of female mates.

Tim shared, “After a birth, male Sea Lions guard their harem of females, which means they do not leave to get food. Although Dominic has no competition and plenty of food available to him here, he acts in exactly the same way, fasting for a month and making a lot of noise to show this is his territory! Don’t feel too bad for him though, he prepared for his fast by eating lots before the births!”

Summer visitors to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will be able to see Hanno and Oakley learning to swim alongside the rest of the Sea Lion clan. Visit www.zsl.org to find out more.

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Seal Welcomes Third Pup at Aquarium of the Pacific

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The Aquarium of the Pacific is pleased to announce that one of their Harbor Seals, named Shelby, gave birth to a pup on April 20. Shelby is one of the Aquarium’s original animals and was two-years-old when the nonprofit facility opened in 1998.

Most seals give birth to young starting at four to five-years-of-age. So at twenty-two years old, Shelby is considered a mature mom. This is her third pup. Shelby gave birth to her first pup, a female named Bixby, in April 2012 at age seventeen and her second, a male named Toby, in 2013. Bixby was moved to a zoo in the Midwest in 2015 with other female Harbor Seals, and Toby is slated to move to an aquarium in the southeast in May. Troy, the Aquarium of the Pacific’s only male Harbor Seal, is the father of all three pups and has lived at the Aquarium since 2007.

“Shelby has had a normal, healthy pregnancy, and with her success at giving birth to two pups here at the Aquarium in recent years, we were cautiously optimistic about the arrival of her third pup. It is particularly special to the Aquarium that one of our charter animals has given birth to the next generation, in the year of our twentieth anniversary,” said Dudley Wigdahl, Aquarium Curator of Mammals and Birds.

Shelby and her female pup are currently in the holding area next to the Seal and Sea Lion Habitat at the Aquarium. The shades will at times be open and closed periodically to allow for privacy for the mother and pup to bond.

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Photo Credits: Aquarium of the Pacific

New mom, Shelby, is a Pacific Harbor Seal. Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina) can be found in the eastern Pacific Ocean, from the southern coast of Alaska to the northern portion of Baja, Mexico.

Their color and markings are unique to each seal, like a human’s fingerprints. Some have light-colored fur of almost white to silver or gray with darker circular or ring marks. Others have darker fur with light-colored markings. They range in size from 4 to 6.6 feet long and weigh between 110 to 375 pounds (males tend to be larger than females).

They may spend up to 85 percent of the day diving for prey, primarily schooling and bottom-dwelling fishes such as herring, surfperch, rockfish, salmon, and hake. They are also partial to some invertebrates, including crustaceans, and they get the water they need from their food. They can live about twenty-five to thirty years in the wild and longer under human care. Harbor Seals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. While the species is not currently listed as endangered or threatened, Harbor Seals are sensitive to human encroachment.

Continue reading "Seal Welcomes Third Pup at Aquarium of the Pacific" »


Mystic Aquarium Releases Rescued Harbor Seal Pups

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From the shores of Rhode Island to North Carolina and Alaska, Mystic Aquarium, in Mystic, Connecticut, works to care for marine animals in need.

On the morning of October 5, Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program staff and volunteers released two Harbor Seal pups, Lavender and Bluebell, at Blue Shutters Beach in Charlestown, RI.

Both pups were abandoned, shortly after birth, and were rescued by Marine Mammals of Maine. Lavender, a female Harbor Seal, was rescued in Waldoboro, ME and was transferred to Mystic Aquarium for rehabilitation on May 18. Bluebell, a male Harbor Seal, was rescued in Scarborough, ME and arrived at Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Clinic on August 3.

Following months of rehabilitation, the dynamic duo, at approximately 4–5 months old, were deemed healthy and prepared for their release into the wild and a life at sea.

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Mystic Aquarium Harbor Seal Release Lavendar Blue Bell Group Shot 3Photo & Video Credits: Mystic Aquarium (Images 1-3: Release day for Lavendar and Blue Bell on Oct 5 / Video: Release day for four seal pups on Oct 20)

Just three-weeks-later, on October 20, Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program released four more Harbor Seal pups. The four Harbor Seals (Flax, Larkspur, Sunflower and Buttercup) were rescued by Marine Mammals of Maine before being transferred to Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Clinic.

Flax was rescued from Bustin’s Island, Freeport, ME, and was considered abandoned shortly after birth, arriving at Mystic Aquarium on May 28. Larkspur was rescued in Harpswell, ME, and Sunflower was rescued from Isle of Springs, ME. Both pups were also considered abandoned shortly after birth and arrived at Mystic Aquarium on June 1. Buttercup was rescued in Little Diamond Island, Portland, ME, and was found malnourished and suffering from pneumonia, arriving at Mystic Aquarium on July 15.

Following months of rehabilitation, the four pups, now approximately 4–5 months old, were deemed healthy and prepared for life at sea.

Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program supports animals in need and educates the public about the marine environment and its inhabitants. The public is encouraged to call the Aquarium’s 24-hour hotline at 860.572.5955 ext. 107 if they encounter a marine mammal or sea turtle in Conn., R.I. or Fishers Island, N.Y. Mystic Aquarium is a founding member of the Northeast Region Stranding Network. This network in comprised of organizations along the eastern seacoast, which have facilities and trained staff to care for sick and injured animals. Marine Mammals are protected species, so only groups and facilities authorized by the National Marine Fisheries Service are permitted to handle these animals.


Sea Lion Pups Worth the Wait at Brookfield Zoo

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Guests will be seeing double when they visit Brookfield Zoo’s Pinniped Point in a few weeks. Two California Sea Lion pups were recently born, and they are the first of this species born at the zoo in nearly 30 years.

The new pups are currently behind the scenes, bonding with their mothers, and learning how to swim, as well as being monitored by animal care staff. It is anticipated the pups will have access to their outdoor habitat in a few weeks.

The first pup, a female, was born on June 4 to seven-year-old Josephine. A week later, on June 11, Arie, who is estimated to be about nine-years-old, gave birth to a male.

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4_Brookfield Sea Lion 5Photo Credits: Brookfield Zoo/Chicago Zoological Society (CZS)

California Sea Lion pups are usually born in June and July and will weigh between 13 to 20 pounds. Pups do not swim for their first few weeks of life, but rather stay in tidal pools until they can go to sea with their mothers. They nurse for at least five months and sometimes for more than a year. In the wild, after giving birth, mother Sea Lions will leave their offspring for a short time while they forage at sea. As the pups grow stronger, the mothers leave them alone for longer periods. Mother Sea Lions recognize their pups through smell, sight, and vocalizations.

The new additions at Brookfield Zoo are very important to the genetic diversity of the accredited North American zoo population for the species because of the unique backgrounds of the two moms as well as of Tanner, the pups’ sire. All three adults were wild born and deemed non-releasable by the government for various reasons. All were taken in and given homes at three accredited facilities: Aquarium of Niagara, Brookfield Zoo, and Shedd Aquarium.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the birth of these two Sea Lion pups, which is a coordinated effort between us and our partner facilities,” said Rita Stacey, Curator of Marine Mammals for CZS.

Continue reading "Sea Lion Pups Worth the Wait at Brookfield Zoo" »


Baby Boom of Baltic Grey Seal Pups at Kolmården

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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.

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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).”


New Gray Seal Pup at Smithsonian’s National Zoo

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The Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s American Trail team is celebrating the arrival of a female Gray Seal pup. She was born January 21 to mother Kara.

Keepers have been closely monitoring the pup, which appears to be nursing, moving and bonding well with mom. At 33 years old, Kara is the oldest Gray Seal to give birth in a Zoo. This pup is the third for Kara and 26-year-old father, Gunther.

Animal care staff are cautiously optimistic that the pup will thrive, and Kara is caring for her pup without interference. On January 24 the pup weighed-in at 37 pounds.

Around three weeks of age, the pup will wean and shed her white lanugo coat, revealing a gray and mottled pattern similar to that of the adults. Once she is weaned, keepers will slowly introduce the new pup to the other members of the colony. She will join the Zoo’s adult Gray Seals and two Harbor Seals, Luke and Squeegee, on exhibit and public view in the spring.

Kara_and_pup_day_2Photo Credits: Jacqueline Conrad/ Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Keepers initially suspected that Kara was pregnant based on her physical changes, appetite and weight gain, among other cues. They have trained the seals to voluntarily participate in radiographs and ultrasounds, with veterinarians present, as part of their routine medical care. An ultrasound in August confirmed Kara was pregnant, and animal care staff had been conducting bi-weekly ultrasounds to track the pup’s development. The Zoo will continue to provide updates on the Gray Seals through its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo received a recommendation to breed Kara and Gunther from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP). An SSP matches individual animals across the country for breeding in order to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse and self-sustaining population.

Although once endangered, Gray Seals (Halichoerus grypus) are now listed as “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In the wild, they range from North America to the Baltic Sea.


Sea Lion Double Trouble at WCS’s Bronx Zoo

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The Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Bronx Zoo is excited to announce the addition of two California Sea Lion pups.

The pups were born in June to different mothers. The pup born to mother, Indy, has been identified as a male. Keepers have not yet been able to determine the sex of the other pup, born to Margaretta. Both have yet to receive their names.

Clyde is the sire of both pups. He is one of two adult bulls that came to WCS’s Queens Zoo in 2013 from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of a local wildlife management project in Bonneville, Ore. These are his first offspring since arriving in New York.

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4_Julie Larsen Maher_5809_California Sea Lion Pups_SLP_BZ_07 11 16Photo Credits: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS

 

The California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) is a coastal eared seal native to western North America. It is one of five species of Sea Lion. Its natural habitat ranges from southeast Alaska to central Mexico, including the Gulf of California.

They are mainly found on sandy or rocky beaches, but they also frequent manmade environments, such as marinas and wharves. Sea Lions feed on a number of species of fish and squid, and are preyed on by Orcas and White Sharks.

California Sea Lions have a polygamous breeding pattern. From May to August, males establish territories and try to attract females with which to mate. Females are free to move in between territories, and are not coerced by males. Mothers nurse their pups in between foraging trips.

Sea Lions communicate with numerous vocalizations, notably with barks and mother-pup contact calls. Outside of their breeding season, Sea Lions spend much of their time at sea, but they come to shore to molt.

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Ringed Seal is a Rare Zoo Birth

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A rare zoo birth happened in February – a Ringed Seal was born at Burgers’ Zoo, the only zoo in the world to breed this species.  This is the second Ringed Seal birth at the zoo, which is in the Netherlands.

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_MG_9778Photo Credit:  Burgers' Zoo
 
Early in the morning on February 17, zoo keepers arrived at work and discovered the pup in the Seal exhibit.  Mom tucked the baby in a sandy hollow in a corner of the exhibit and visits the pup to nurse it several times a day.  Seal milk is rich and nutritious, and pups typically double their body weight in the first week. 

Ringed Seals are the most common Seals in the Arctic and are often preyed upon by Polar Bears.  They are the smallest member of the earless Seal family, weighing up to 300 pounds as adults.  These Seals are rarely found far from ice, and often hunt for fish along the edges of sea ice. 

Ringed Seals are currently listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but scientists are worried that the Seals could be affected by climate change. As sea ice melts, the Seals could lose their breeding and feeding grounds.

See more photos of the Seal pup below.

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Sleepy Sea Lion Pup Takes a Nap ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

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Keepers at Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) Whipsnade Zoo have an exciting new addition to care for, with the arrival of a tiny California Sea Lion pup.

Born to first-time parents Bailey and Dominic on June 18, the two-week-old male, named Oscar, is the first pup to arrive at the zoo since dad Dominic was born in 2007.

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After giving birth outside on the edge of the Sea Lions' pool, Bailey has taken to motherhood swimmingly, and is already proving to be a doting mum to the incredibly lively pup. 

Covered in a downy fur, Oscar will grow up to 7.5 feet (2.3 m) in length and is already showing similarities with dad Dominic - who was a notoriously cheeky pup – by demanding mum’s attention at all times. 

Zookeeper Alex Pinnell said, "A new infant is not only exciting for the zookeepers, but also for the other Sea Lions as it’s something brand new for them and they all love the new addition to their group. We’re staying hands-off for now, to allow them all to get to know one another.

“The new pup is a great addition to the colony here at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and the European conservation breeding programme for this species, and it’s brilliant for us to see Bailey being such a good mum.  

“We’ve named the pup Oscar, which we think suits his personality, and as ‘O’ is the fifteenth letter in the alphabet, we’ll always easily remember that he was born in 2015!"

Originating from the rocky coastlines of the Pacific Ocean, all along the west coast of the USA, California Sea Lions live in large colonies, led by a dominant male and his harem of female mates. 

Perfectly adapted to life on land and underwater, California Sea Lions have smooth streamlined bodies, and strong flippers to power them through the water in pursuit of their prey. Able to rotate their rear flippers forward, the Sea Lions are able to move comfortably on land where they usually breed and give birth.  

They are listed as a species of Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.

Visitors to the Zoo will be able to see Oscar and mum Bailey splashing around with the rest of the sea lion clan, dad Dominic, and aunt Lara.