Alaska SeaLife Center

Checking-in on Orphan Baby Walrus in I.Sea.U

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Two weeks ago we brought you the touching story of an orphaned Pacific Walrus calf rescued, cared for and comforted at Alaska SeaLife Center. Today we check back-in on the 275 lb. toddler and see he is making good progress and enjoying playtime in his pool. This calf also marks the first patient in Alaska SeaLife Center's newest animal care area,  the I.Sea.U critical care unit.

On June 8, the I.Sea.U was officially opened during World Oceans Day festivities as a nursery for stranded Sea Otters. Since no live Sea Otters were admitted to the stranding program this summer, the I.Sea.U remained unoccupied until now. “We prepared first for our most common species requiring intensive care, the Northern Sea Otter. Readying the space to house walrus had been planned for Phase 2 this coming winter, but we’ve gotten there more quickly with this pressing need,” said Brett Long, the Center’s husbandry director. The new unit will also have dedicated staff support and is physically separated from the other established stranding areas of the building.

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Great video of the Pacific Walrus calf rocking out in his pool

The unit was made possible through the generous donations from Barbara Weinig, the MK LeLash Foundation, ConocoPhillips, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, and the Minnesota Zoo. The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only permanent marine rehabilitation center in Alaska responding to stranded marine mammals. The Center responded to four stranded walrus calves between 2003 and 2007, but this year’s calves are the first walrus admitted in the last five years.

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Once a stranded marine mammal is admitted to the ASLC, it receives care from an experienced and dedicated veterinary and animal care staff. The Alaska SeaLife Center operates a 24-hour hotline for the public to report stranded marine mammals or birds, and encourages people who have found a stranded or sick marine animal to avoid touching or approaching the animal; instead, those individuals should call 1-888-774- SEAL (7325).

Orphan Walrus Comforted at Alaska SeaLife Center

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This past Saturday, local fisherman spotted an orphan Pacific Walrus calf on floating ice near Barrow, Alaska. After a period of observation from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a rescue was approved and Alaska SeaLife Center staff and a local veterinarian prepared the 200lb. baby for airlift to Anchorage and transport by modified truck to ASLC in Seward. 

The calf is suckling readily from a bottle, feeding every three hours around the clock, and consuming nearly 1,400 calories at each feed. He is actively seeking attention from care-givers, and vocalizing when left alone. “Walrus are incredibly tactile, social animals,” said Stranding Coordinator Tim Lebling.  “Walrus calves typically spend about two years with their mothers, so we have to step in to provide that substitute care and companionship.”  Walrus calves almost immediately habituate to human care and therefore are not candidates for release following rehabilitation.


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The video below is one of the most touching ZooBorns has had the privilige to share

The calf appears to be in good condition; however, Center veterinarians have identified and are addressing some health concerns while performing additional diagnostic testing to better understand his condition. If you would like to contribute to this calf's care, you can do so here

More photos and information below the fold

Continue reading "Orphan Walrus Comforted at Alaska SeaLife Center" »

Marine Mammal Experts Work Round-the-Clock to Save Orphan Baby Beluga

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Four accredited U.S. aquariums have come together in an effort to save a newborn Beluga whale calf which was found stranded in South Naknek, Alaska last week - this is the first time in history that a live calf has been found and rescued in U.S. waters. Marine mammal experts with a combined 125 years of experience from Shedd Aquarium, SeaWorld and Georgia Aquarium immediately answered the Alaska SeaLife Center’s call for assistance to provide around-the-clock care for the calf during this rehabilitation period. The male, 112-pound calf is touch-and-go at this point and considered in critical condition – especially due to his immature immune system, and remains under 24-hour observation.

This is a great example of how the aquarium community comes together to work collaboratively in order do what’s best for an animal in need.

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DSCN0923Photo credits 1 and 2 and video: Alaska SeaLife Center. Photo 3: Provided by Shedd Aquarium featuring SeaWorld's Bill Winhall and Shedd Aquarium's Lisa Takaki

Stranded Seal Pup, Probably a Preemie, Gets a New Lease on Life!


Meet Olympia. On May 2nd, this young Harbor Seal was found stranded in Haines, AK. Haines Animal Rescue Center quickly got authorization to rescue her after searching the area for other seals. Olympia then made a last minute flight to Juneau where veterinarian Rachael Berngartt, D.V.M. stabilized her for further transport to Alaska Sealife Center.

Olympia has a white lanugo coat, an indication that she was born prematurely. Tim Lebling, ASLC Stranding Coordinator, stated, “It is likely that Olympia was abandoned by her mother, as we commonly find that seals abandon their premature pups.”  Olympia is currently in “good but guarded” condition, and will be cared for until she can be released back into the wild. She ASLC's first stranded Seal in 2012.



Photo and Video Credits: Alaska SeaLife Center

Olympia is currently being fed five times a day with a milk matrix created specifically for harbor seals that contains all of the nutrients and calories she needs to grow.  

Read more about Olympia and see more pictures beneath the fold...

Continue reading "Stranded Seal Pup, Probably a Preemie, Gets a New Lease on Life!" »

Orphan Otter Finds New Home in Pittsburgh


Back in March we brought you the story of a young Sea Otter rescued by the residents of Port Heiden, Alaska. Discovered alone on the beach next to his deceased mother, the pup was cared for overnight by concerned citizens, then flown to the Alaska SeaLife Center. One month and one FedEx plane ride later, the pup begins a new life at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium and will go on exhibit next Friday, April 27th. FedEx specializes in transporting animals between zoological institutions safely and comfortably. 


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The next milestone for the little pup will be to acclimate to his new environment in Pittsburgh, begin eating solid food, respond to keeper’s cues which will teach him cooperative and husbandry behaviors. These behaviors will allow him to participate in his own care such as voluntary weigh-ins, and presentation of paws and flippers. He will develop his natural instincts as he grows and when he is bigger will be slowly introduced to Alki and Chugach, the Zoo’s current sea otter residents.

Otter Pup at Pittsburgh ZooSea Otter pup arriving in Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Baby Got His Bottle After A Rough Start


This week, the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) welcomed its first stranding patient for the 2012 season. On Monday, residents of Port Heiden discovered a deceased Northern sea otter and her surviving male pup along Meshik Beach. The Port Heiden community provided overnight care for the otter, feeding him every four hours as instructed by Center staff. The pup was then flown to King Salmon, where ASLC senior veterinarian Dr. Pam Tuomi joined him on his journey to the professional care facility in Seward. Both Dr. Tuomi and the otter arrived safely at the Center late Tuesday night.


Photo credit: Alaska SeaLife Center


Meshik, named after the location where he was found, is approximately three weeks old and weighs almost seven pounds. Husbandry Director Brett Long reports that Meshik “is doing well, eating a healthy mixture of formula and fluids.” The ASLC staff would like to thank the residents of Port Heiden for their considerate effort caring for Meshik and their cooperation regarding the incredible logistics of this multi-community transport. 

Continue reading "Baby Got His Bottle After A Rough Start" »

Meet Merlot, the Orphan Harbor Seal Pup

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Merlot was found on the mudflats outside of Tyonek, Alaska this past Saturday morning. There had recently been a storm in the area and rescuers spent the day trying to find the pup's mother. When none was found, the little girl was flown up to Anchorage and then driven down to the Alaska SeaLife Center. When she arrived she was less than 48 hours old and only weighed 7.5 kilos (16.53 lbs.)

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For those of you experiencing déjà vu, Alaska SeaLife Center rescued another young Harbor Seal, named Gouda, two weeks ago. ASLC is naming all of their rescues this year after wines and cheeses!

Gouda Goes for a Swim (more like a splash)

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Last week we brought out the story of Gouda, a four day old orphan Harbor Seal pup rescued by the Alaska SeaLife Center. Now just over a week old, Gouda's progress has been great and the little pup is getting stronger everyday. ASL keepers give the baby buckets of ice to help regulate her body temperature, ensuring she doesn't get too warm or too cold. In the video below, Gouda gets some exercise by splashing around in a mixture of salt and freshwater. Harbor seal pups are fast growers and are weaned off of their mothers milk within 4-6 weeks of birth.

Gouda the Seal enjoys ice cubes as ASL

Eat, Play, Sleep - a Day in the Life of Tazo

Time to check back in on the New York Aquarium's noisy little orphan Sea Otter, Tazo! For those of you who are just jumping in to the Tazo saga, this little otter was rescued and rehabilitated by the Alaska SeaLife Center. In September, Tazo made a big move from Alaska to the New York Aquarium. Unlike many out-of-state transplants, Tazo seems to be adjusting to big city life just fine as evidenced in the video belows.

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