Friday, August 31, 2007
He’s handsome, he’s covered in fur, and he’s the newest resident of our Seal and Sea Lion Habitat! Meet Troy, our three-year-old male harbor seal. He arrived at the Aquarium several weeks ago, along with three California sea lions, and has been residing in our mammal quarantine area. All new animals that come to the Aquarium go through a standard quarantine period before being introduced into their new, permanent home just to be sure that they are very healthy and don’t have anything that could spread to our other animals. During this time, Troy was learning basic behaviors with our mammalogists and getting used to his new pals! This past Thursday was Troy’s big day. Early in the morning he was wheeled up from the quarantine area and his carrier was placed into the holding area within the pinniped exhibit. The carrier door was opened, and after a few looks around and a few curious sniffs of the air, he made his way into the water of the 211,000 gallon Seal and Sea Lion Habitat to join current residents Shelby, Ellie, Miller, and Parker. He was a little shy at first, but now he can be seen exploring his new home and trying to keep our other two harbor seals company. Come on over and check him out!
Like sea lions and walruses, seals are pinnipeds, which means fin-footed. This group of marine mammals all have front and rear flippers. Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) can grow to a length of five to six feet and can weigh up to 300 pounds. They are true seals, so they do not have external ear flaps. They have small front flippers, so in order to move around on land they scoot along on their bellies. Harbor seals are found north of the equator in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and they can frequently be spotted locally hauled out along our coasts. Harbor seals do not bark like sea lions. Instead, they may growl, hiss, or snort.
Since Troy’s arrival, many guests have asked me where our marine mammals come from so I’d like to take the opportunity to address that question here in my blog. Our marine mammals (seals, sea lions, and sea otters) come to us in one of two ways. One way is that they are born in a protected environment, such as another zoo or aquarium. These animals are used to being cared for by humans and therefore cannot be released their natural environment. The second way we obtain marine mammals is through animal rescue organizations that have rescued stranded, sick, or injured animals. For the most part, these rescued animals are rehabilitated and returned to their natural environment. However, some animals are deemed non-releasable after they are rescued. This means that, for one reason or another, these animals would not be able to survive on their own if they were returned. This could be due to thermo-regulation problems (such is the case with one of our sea otters), very poor eyesight (as is the case with our largest sea lion), or any other ailment that would make it impossible for that animal to survive in its marine environment. Either way they happen to end up here at the Aquarium, we’re more than happy to give them a nice, safe home.
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