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First Ever Harbor Seal Birth for Los Angeles

Last month, a male Harbor Seal was born at the Los Angeles Zoo; this marks the Zoo’s first success at breeding Harbor Seals. The baby will remain off exhibit with his mother, Asia, until he is old enough to be introduced to the other adult seals. The pup’s father, Alfred, is a blind harbor seal that was discovered in 2007 on the shores of Cape May Point, N.J. 

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Photo Credits: Tad Motoyama

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Precocious from the start, harbor seal pups are able to swim and dive within minutes of their birth.  At birth they weigh between 18 and 30 pounds.  Adult males can reach 370 pounds and can grow up to six feet long; making them slightly larger than adult females.  Juveniles and newly weaned pups feed primarily on shrimp and krill, while adults eat a highly varied diet of fish, octopus and squid.

When the pup's father, Alfred, was found he was underweight, most likely due to his inability to capture fish.  He was brought to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J., where staff was amazed that aside from being blind, he had no other medical problems.  Due to his blindness Alfred was deemed non-releasable and soon found a home here at the L.A. Zoo.

Approximately 8 years old, Alfred shares his L.A. Zoo habitat, Sea Life Cliffs, with four female harbor seals including this pup’s mother, Asia, who at 19 years old is an experienced mother.  The females are on loan to the Zoo from Adventure Aquarium in Camden, N.J.

Harbor seals are pinnipeds; a group of marine mammals that includes the seal, sea lion and walrus.  A widespread species, they’re found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  They are often forced to sleep in the water during high tides.  In the water, they assume a posture known as “bottling” where the seal’s body remains submerged, but the face pokes above the surface like a snorkel allowing the animal to breathe regularly while sleeping or resting.