Seal & Sea Lion

New Year Brings a Grey Seal Pup to Brookfield Zoo

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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.

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5 sealPhoto credit: Jim Schulz / Chicago Zoological Society

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.

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.


Vancouver Aquarium Releases Rehabilitated Harbor Seals

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After receiving months of care at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, seven rehabilitated Harbor Seal pups poked their noses out of their transport kennels and wiggled down to the waters of Howe Sound on the morning of November 20. Five of the rescued seal pups were outfitted with satellite-linked transmitters, which will provide valuable data to the aquarium’s veterinary team regarding the seal pups’ travel patterns and progress following their release. 

In the water, the transmitters don't weigh anything, and the seals don't seem to be bothered by them at all! They aren't invasive; no part of the animal has been punctured or any pain caused. They will fall off by the time the animals molt next spring, if not before. When the animals move, the antennas point backwards, and so they don't affect the seals' ability to swim.The transmitters are the result of decades of collaboration between veterinarians, biologists, engineers, and programmers.  

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See photos of the release after the fold!

Continue reading "Vancouver Aquarium Releases Rehabilitated Harbor Seals" »

Orphaned Fur Seal on Track at Alaska SeaLife Center


An orphaned Northern Fur Seal left in a box outside the Alaska Department of Fish and Game offices is on track despite a rough start in life.



Photo Credit:  Alaska SeaLife Center

The Stranding Team at Alaska SeaLife Center took in the newborn Seal, who weighed only 9.5 pounds, on July 24.  A note on the box said that the pup’s mother had died giving birth.  The pup, named Chiidax by the staff, was underweight and dehydrated.

Today, Chiidax weighs 18 pounds and weaned at four months old, which is right on target for a wild Fur Seal.  Chiidax now enjoys whole fish rather than formula.

Now that Chiidax is weaned, he’s also molted his dark pup coat and sports the cream and brown coat of a young juvenile.

Northern Fur Seals inhabit the Pacific Coast of the United States, the Bering Sea, and the coast of the Russian Far East.  As a male Fur Seal, Chiidax is destined to weigh about 590 pounds (270 kg) when full grown.  Male Fur Seals weigh four to five times as much as females.  Northern Fur Seals are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

See more photos of Chiidax below the fold.

Continue reading "Orphaned Fur Seal on Track at Alaska SeaLife Center" »

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.

Seal Pup Birth Long Awaited at Zoo Osnabrück


In the early morning hours of July 4, Germany's Zoo Osnabrück welcomed the first Seal pup to be born there in five years. The little one with the coal- black eyes is already swimming with the others, but still likes to cuddle extensively with its mom, Bee. The sex has not yet been determined, so the baby has no name yet. 

"We are very pleased that the birth went so well. The baby is very attentive and swims very well," said head staff member Kirsten Bischoff. The 14-year-old mother has gotten through her third birth well. This was the first baby for six-year-old father Max, but Bee has not let him get close to the new baby. As soon as Bee sees Max, she protectively nudges the baby away.

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Photo Credit: Photo 1,3: Zoo Osnabrück, Photos 2, 4: Cindy Schrooten 

Keepers have left the two in peace thus far to bond so they don't have a weight yet, but they estimate the pup is between 22-26 pounds (10-12 kg), about one tenth of Mom's body weight. Seals nurse their young mostly on land, so Bee brings her baby on shore to feed. The pup will suckle for the first month or so before the mother's milk is supplemented with fish.

A Second Seal Pup for Point Defiance Zoo


The Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium welcomed its second Pacific Harbor Seal pup in two weeks when mom Qilak delivered a healthy baby on June 10.  Another female, Shila, delivered a pup on June 2.

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Photo Credit:  Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium


The pair of pups made their public debut on June 20.  Zoo keepers report that Shila and Qilak are taking excellent care of their newborns.  The newest pup weighed 22.6 pounds (10.3 kg) at birth.

In the wild, Seals feed on a wide variety of fish.  You can see mother Seal eating fish in the video above.  For now, of course, both pups get all their nutrition through their mothers’ milk.


A Bouncing Baby Boy for Aquarium of the Pacific

Shelby, a popular Harbor Seal at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, gave birth to a male pup on May 1.  The 32 pound (14.8 kg) pup is the second for Shelby and her mate, Troy.




Photo Credit:  Hugh Ryono

The new pup is much larger and hungrier than Shelby’s first pup.  According to keepers, Shelby has to end nursing sessions herself, rather than waiting for the pup to finish.  Keepers have been giving Shelby extra fish so that she can produce enough nutritious milk for her growing pup.

Keepers also report that this pup is unusually vocal.  He calls loudly to get his mom’s attention, then enjoys floating on his back next to Shelby.

Sea Lion Pup Welcomed at Seneca Park Zoo

Sea lion pup at SPZ (Kelli O'Brien) (1)

The Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, New York welcomed a California Sea Lion pup on June 1 to first-time mom Marina.  While the pup’s gender is not yet known, it is the 18th baby born at the zoo this year. 

Sea lion pup at SPZ (Kelli O'Brien) (4)

Sea lion pup at SPZ (Kelli O'Brien) (3)

Sea lion pup at SPZ (Kelli O'Brien) (2)
Photo Credit:  Kelli O'Brien

Four-year-old Marina came to the zoo in 2011 after being stranded on a beach in Los Angeles County, California.  The pup’s father was Puff, who arrived from Sea World Orlando in 2007.  Puff died last fall.

California Sea Lions are native to the Pacific coast of North America, from Alaska to Mexico.  Sea Lion populations are not threatened, but they are protected from hunting and harassment by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Sea Lions’ intelligence and trainability have led to their use by the United Sates Navy to detect underwater mines.