Aquariums Swap Harbor Seals

November 12, 2008

Mammalogists at Oregon Coast Aquarium and Seattle Aquarium collaborate in captive breeding program

The Oregon Coast Aquarium exchanged a female harbor seal for a male harbor seal from the Seattle Aquarium in hopes of producing pups. The Oregon Coast Aquarium exchanged 22 year old female, “Pinky,” for 9 1/2 year old male, “Q”, who is currently becoming acclimated to his holding pool.

In a few days, “Q” will be introduced to the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s four females, two of which, “Swap and “Boots” are potential mates. The breeding loan will last two years. If pups aren’t produced in that time the animals will return to their homes at their original aquariums.

“We’ll bring the other seals in after he’s calmed a bit,” said Judy Tuttle, Oregon Coast Aquarium Curator of Mammals. “Meanwhile, he can interact with them between the gates and the females have already been vocalizing to him.” Tuttle said the male will be with them all winter in hopes they will produce spring 2010 pups.

The Seattle Aquarium contacted Tuttle recently, saying they had two males and inquired about the possibility of a breeding program. “At the time we didn’t have a separate holding place for a mother and a newborn pup,” said Tuttle, “but after discussing the idea with Jim Burke, Director of Animal Husbandry, we decided we could create one with an existing 30 foot round tank we already have on site.” Tuttle said the tank is already in place and they are the process of building decking around it. It will be ready well in advance of any possible pup births.

Only marine mammals that were either born in captivity or rescued and rehabilitated from an illness or injury but deemed unfit to survive in the wild live at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. These animals live in natural-like settings with ample above and below water viewing opportunities.

“We have started a captive breeding program because the marine mammal protection act protects marine mammals from collection & exhibition,” said Tuttle. “In order to meet the highest conservation standards, we hope to breed harbor seals for display not only here but at other zoos and aquariums in order to prevent any drain on the wild populations.”