The Alaska SeaLife Center had some recent hatches in their aviary. A Horned Puffling and two King Eider Ducklings emerged this summer.
The King Eider Ducklings are said to be growing fast. They are currently being fed bloodworms and a mixture of waterfowl feed. Keepers say they swim efficiently and love snuggling each other.
The Horned Puffling hatched to parents, Nemo and Clay. Staff members report that the little bird is doing well, but keepers are feeding it a supplement of sand eels, just to make sure it is getting enough food.
Photo Credits: Alaska SeaLife Center
The Horned Puffin (Fratercula corniculata) is an auk, similar in appearance to the Atlantic Puffin. It is a pelagic seabird that feeds primarily by diving for fish. It nests in colonies, often with other auks.
They are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. However, the population of the species has declined due to the introduction of rats onto some islands used for nesting.
The King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) is a large sea duck that breeds along Northern Hemisphere Arctic coasts of northeast Europe, North America and Asia. The birds spend most of the year in coastal marine ecosystems at high latitudes, and migrate to Arctic tundra to breed in June and July.
Due to its large population and vast range, the King Eider is listed as “Least Concern” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Predators include: Glaucous Gull, Common Raven, Parasitic Jaeger and the Arctic Fox.
After being tended by their mother for almost a year, thousands of Giant Pacific Octopus eggs are beginning to hatch at the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC).
The eggs were laid by Gilligan, the ASLC’s eldest female Giant Pacific Octopus, beginning in May 2017. For the past year, Gilligan guarded her eggs, blew water over them, and groomed them to remove algae. About two weeks ago, aquarists noticed tiny Octopus babies – each about the size of a pea - floating in the tank.
Photo Credit: Alaska SeaLife Center
The eggs are expected to hatch by the end of May, with about a hundred hatching so far. Each Octopus hatchling looks like a miniature adult, with all eight arms, sucker discs, and well-developed eyes. The babies swim by jet propulsion, just like adults.
As the babies rise to the surface of their tank, the staff collects them and places them in a rearing tank where they float and eat zooplankton.
Hatching and successfully rearing Giant Pacific Octopuses in an aquarium setting is extremely rare, with only one documented case of this species being reared to adulthood at the Seattle Aquarium in the 1980s. In the wild, the survival rate of hatchlings is about 1 percent. In an aquarium, the odds of survival are very low as the hatchlings are extremely delicate and have complex nutritional needs. This is ASLC’s third opportunity to raise Giant Pacific Octopus babies and staff remains hopeful as they begin rearing.
Giant Pacific Octopus mate only once in their three- to six-year lifespan. The male passes a spermatophore into the female’s mantle during mating. The female has up to 6 months to use it to fertilize her eggs. She then lays 20,000 to 80,000 eggs in long, braided strands that look like white, tear-shaped grape clusters. The process of laying the eggs can take about a month.
As for Gilligan, the hatching of her babies signals the end of her life. Because the female Octopus continuously guards her eggs for many months without hunting or feeding, she typically dies after her babies begin to hatch. Octopus hatchlings receive no maternal care, hence the low odds of survival to adulthood in the wild.
Giant Pacific Octopus are the largest of all Octopus species, with an adult weight of about 30 pounds and an arm span of about 14 feet. They feed on crabs, scallops, snails, clams, fish in the cold waters of the North Pacific Ocean to depths of 2,000 feet.
A stranded Beluga Whale calf, struggling to survive on its own, was rescued from Cook Inlet, Alaska on Saturday, September 30. The male calf is undergoing intensive around-the-clock care at the Alaska SeaLife Center with the help of Marine Mammal experts from around North America. The calf is a member of the critically endangered Cook Inlet Beluga Whale population, which has declined to approximately 328 individuals left in the wild.
The solitary calf, estimated to be four weeks old, was spotted alone and distressed by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement (NOAA OLE) Enforcement Officer and Department of Public Safety / Alaska Wildlife Troopers Pilot returning from a helicopter patrol. No adult Belugas were seen in the area. Under authorization from NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program (MMHSRP), the NOAA enforcement officer and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers pilot attempted unsuccessfully to encourage the animal back in the water. NOAA helped coordinate the transport of an Alaska SeaLife Center veterinarian to the site to assess the animal's condition. A decision was made to transport the Beluga calf to Anchorage for subsequent transfer to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.
Photo Credit: Alaska SeaLife Center
The calf is currently receiving treatment in the Alaska SeaLife Center’s I.Sea.U. “The calf appeared to have been stranded for several hours and was in a weakened condition; without evidence of major physical trauma. He is able to swim on his own and is breathing regularly, which are very positive signs. However, there are tremendous hurdles ahead. Because this animal is extremely young, there is a high risk of complications,” said Dr. Carrie Goertz, DVM, ASLC Director of Animal Health. With any cetacean [Whale or Dolphin] rescue, particularly with a neonatal calf, survival is estimated at less than 10 percent.
When a stranded animal arrives at the Alaska SeaLife Center, the first goal is to rehydrate the animal. Aminoplex is a formula that helps animals when they are in a severe state of dehydration. This is the first fluid the calf received upon arrival at the Center’s I.Sea.U. The calf was 64 inches long and weighed 142 pounds when it arrived at the Center.
The Beluga calf has graduated from drinking Aminoplex to a milk matrix with fish and antibiotics added. The calf actively suckles his formula, but the team is still determining the best way to deliver his meals. A bottle does not allow the calf to gain proper suction. They have found that the calf is able to suckle better from the tip of a wide tube inserted just inside his mouth. (This is not traditional “tube feeding,” in which food is delivered directly to the stomach via tube and the animal receives the food passively, without suckling.)
To best care for this endangered calf, Alaska SeaLife Center pulled together a team of first responders, which included on-site Marine Mammal experts with support from five North American aquariums with professional experience caring for Beluga Whales. Together, veterinarians and Marine Mammal experts at Alaska SeaLife Center, Georgia Aquarium, Vancouver Aquarium, Shedd Aquarium, SeaWorld, and Mystic Aquarium bring decades of hands-on experience caring for, raising, studying and transferring vital knowledge about Beluga Whales, including this critically endangered population. Several of the institutions operate Marine Mammal rescue centers or animal response teams and are deployed when a cetacean requires intervention to give it the best chance at survival – considered even more important when working collaboratively to rehabilitate a member of a critically endangered population.
“As Alaska’s only Marine Mammal rescue and rehabilitation center, our team of experts are responsible for the care of a variety of critical wildlife response situations across the state. To be able to have our expert colleagues assist us with this critically endangered Beluga calf is a true testament to the Marine Mammal community’s commitment to caring for and preserving wild cetacean populations,” said Tara Riemer, President and CEO at the Alaska SeaLife Center. “To witness everyone come together for this very young calf is heartwarming as he is receiving the best 24-hour care from experts across North America.”
Both pups were just a few weeks old when rescued – far too young to survive on their own. They were brought to Alaska SeaLife Center’s I.Sea.U where they each received 24-hour care.
The pups were deemed non-releasable by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services because without their mothers, the pups never learned basic survival skills. Vancouver Aquarium was asked to provide a long-term home for the pups. Accompanied by animal care professionals, the pups departed Alaska last week for their new home in Vancouver.
The pups do not yet have names. Fans can help select their names by voting here through November 16.
Photo Credit: Daniela Ruiz/Alaska SeaLife Center
“After being found without their mothers and unable to care for themselves, these animals have been given a second chance at life,” said Brian Sheehan, curator of marine mammals at Vancouver Aquarium. “The ongoing care for a Sea Otter takes a tremendous amount of resources, and that role will continue here as our marine mammal team helps them integrate into their new home.”
Now weighing a healthy 12 kilograms, the male Sea Otter pup has been maintaining a steady diet, eating about 2.5 kilograms daily of clams, capelin, and squid. At 10.9 kilograms, the female otter eats about 2.0 kilograms of the same seafood mix.
Sea Otters face a number of challenges in the wild. During its first six months a Sea Otter pup is highly dependent on its mother for food and, without her, is unable to survive. Much of the mother’s energy is dedicated to the pup and, as a result, her health may decline over the feeding period. Female Sea Otters give birth every year so if she determines that she has a better chance of rearing a pup the following year, due to environmental factors or availability of prey, then she may abandon the pup before it’s weaned. In adult life, Sea Otters continue to face numerous threats including disease, oil spills, predation, interactions with fisheries and overharvest.
Ninety per cent of the world’s Sea Otters live in Alaska’s coastal waters. Within the state of Alaska, the Southeast and Southcentral stocks are stable or are continuing to increase. The Southwestern stock is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after experiencing a sharp population decline over the last two decades, attributed to an increase in predation from transient Killer Whales.
The Alaska SeaLife Center is currently caring for a blind Harbor Seal. He was the last Harbor Seal pup rescue of 2014, after being found at Land's End in Homer, AK.
Photo Credits: Alaska SeaLife Center
Because of his blindness, the pup, named ‘Bryce’, has been deemed non-releasable by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-National Marine Fisheries Service. Veterinary staff believe he suffered head trauma that was the likely cause of his vision loss.
While Harbor Seals are normally quite shy and skittish, staff have been pleasantly surprised by Bryce's spirit of adventure. He is quick to explore pools, enrichment items, and other changes to his environment. Staff utilize Bryce's inquisitive nature and heightened reliance on sound when teaching him husbandry behaviors, such as hand-feeding and targeting.
Since he cannot see, staff rattle a "shaker" in place of a target buoy. This allows Bryce to use audio cues rather than the customary visual cue. These behaviors help Bryce in adjusting to environmental changes and make veterinary exams easier.
It's a boy!! The Alaska SeaLife Center is pleased to announce the birth of a male Steller Sea Lion pup at 12:14 pm on July 20, 2014. Parents are 14-year-old mother, Eden, and 21-year-old father, Woody. Eden and pup are healthy and doing well. The pup is not expected to be available for public viewing for a few months.
Eden and Woody became parents last summer with the birth of Ellie on June 20, 2013. Ellie marked the first Steller Sea Lion pup born in North American collections since the mid 1980s.
Photo credits: Alaska SeaLife Center
For almost 10 years, Steller Sea Lion research has continued to be one of the largest research focuses at the Alaska SeaLife Center. It is no wonder either—Steller Sea Lion populations in western and south-central Alaska are still below historic numbers, have not fully recovered from significant population declines, and remain listed as endangered on the Federal Endangered Species List. It is not only important to study this species to ensure their survival, but to also learn more about the marine ecosystems in which they inhabit, and how they adapt to environmental change.
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.
A wondrous spectacle of nature
began unfolding on March 6 at the Alaska SeaLife Center: LuLu, a Giant Pacific Octopus,
has been tenderly guarding her brood of eggs, which she began
laying in March 2012. Now, over a year later, tiny hatchlings known as
paralarvae have begun to emerge, and the baby Octopuses are captivating visitors and staff.
LuLu laid eggs
throughout the spring of 2012 after an encounter the previous fall with Felix,
a male Giant Pacific Octopus. A female will lay up to
30,000 eggs only once in her lifetime, and she will brood and guard the eggs until
they hatch. A male may mate with several females but will
expire following this reproductive period. Lulu's lifespan will end when the last of her eggs hatch.
Photo Credit: Alaska SeaLife Center
"LuLu is not feeding at this time but continues to groom and fan the eggs
as attentive Octopus mothers do in this final reproductive phase of their
lives," said Richard Hocking, the Center’s aquarium curator.
While other Octopus species are
frequently raised from eggs in aquariums, that is not the case with the Giant
Pacific Octopus. Only once, in the mid-1980s, has a Giant Pacific Octopus been
successfully reared from egg to maturity in an aquarium. Giant Pacific Octopuses
are difficult to rear due to the delicate nature of the newly-emerged paralarvae
and their unique nutritional needs. To increase the odds of raising the
hatchlings to adulthood, aquarium staff are harvesting both wild and cultured
zooplankton to feed the paralarval Octopuses and have also constructed special
In the wild, the tiny hatchlings,
which are about the size of a grain of rice, swim toward the ocean surface and can spend
several weeks or even months drifting in the plankton-rich water until they are
large enough to hunt in the depths. Once they settle to the bottom, juveniles take
refuge in crevices and under rocks, where they are protected from predators while
they feed and mature. Octopuses eat crustaceans and mollusks along with other
bivalves, snails, fish and smaller Octopuses.
As adults, Giant Pacific Octopuses live in the cold waters
of the northern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Canada, Alaska, Japan, and
Siberia at depths of over 200 feet (65 m).
Adults attain an arm span of up to 14 feet (4.3 m) and weigh about 33
pounds (15 kg). They are considered the
largest of all Octopus species. Little is known about these animals in the
wild, so they are not protected by international treaties.
This orphaned female Sea Otter pup was rescued off the side of a road by Alaska SeaLife Center volunteers on October 19, 2012, after efforts to locate her mother were unsuccessful and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the intervention.The pup was immediately transferred to its I.Sea.U. critical care unit in Seward, Alaska for emergency treatment. She was estimated to be approximately eight weeks old when found, and was deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to the maternal care required by young otters.
She has just been transferred from the Alaska SeaLife Center to its new permanent home at the Vancouver Aquarium, which will allow the pup to receive the ongoing care and companionship she needs. Described as playful, and sometimes mischievous, she has adjusted well and soon will be introduced to Tanu and Elfin -- two Sea Otters who were also found stranded as pups and rescued by the Alaska SeaLife Center in years past.
Photo Credit: Alaska SeaLife Center
Local students from the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Ocean Sciences Club provided three possible Alaskan names for the baby Otter: Susitna, Katmaiand Glacier. The final choice will be made through a voting contest held by the Vancouver Aquarium.
Learn more of this story of teamwork below the fold:
The dramatic journey of two male Pacific Walrus calves, found
stranded this summer near Barrow, Alaska, made a huge leap forward this week when
they arrived at their new permanent homes – the Indianapolis Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York
The touching stories of Mitik and Pakak, each just a few months
old, began when they were found alone and suffering from dehydration on
separate occasions in late July.The tale
of their rescue and rehabilitation at the Alaska SeaLife Center was first
chronicled by ZooBorns on July
27 and their progress updated on August
10.Readers around the world were captivated
by the way the calves immediately bonded with their caregivers through touching
Walrus are very tactile and social animals, and the
dedicated staff and caretakers at the SeaLife Center provided the social
interaction that the calves needed. Walrus calves almost immediately adjust to
human care, so they are not candidates for release back into the wild.
Because the SeaLife Center is it not large enough
to permanently house all the wildlife it rescues, Pakak moved last week to the Indianapolis
Zoo and Mitik traveled to the New York Aquarium. The staffs at each institution are understandably
thrilled with their new arrivals, but fans will have to wait awhile to see the
new calves: both will undergo a routine
quarantine period, with numerous health checks, before being introduced to the
adult Walruses living at each zoo. It
may be several months before the calves are seen by the public.
The 24-hour care the calves received at the Alaska
SeaLife Center continues in their new homes, fulfilling their nutritional and
social needs until they are introduced to their new companions. In Indianapolis, Patak will join longtime zoo
resident Aurora; Mitik will share the New York Aquarium’s exhibit with Kulu,
age 17, and Nuka, age 30.
Both calves were in poor health at the timke of their
rescue, but have steadily improved during their rehabilitation period. The calves currently weigh about 240 pounds,
and as adults they could weigh more than 1,500 pounds.
face environmental threats in their Arctic habitat. Because of the lack of
suitable ice, more and more Walruses are congregating on land. Overcrowding in
these areas may play a role in spreading disease among populations.
Photo Credits (top to bottom): Sybille Castro; Alaska SeaLife Center; Shauna Gallagher, Indianapolis Zoo; Indianapolis Zoo