Rescued Fur Seal To Leave Aquarium For Seaworld

February 20, 2008

The seal’s destination will be warmer waters where she will remain in captivity

A rescued Guadalupe fur seal that has been in rehabilitation at the Oregon Coast Aquarium will be moved to her new home at Sea World in San Diego this Friday. When the seal was brought to the Aquarium last August, the goal of husbandry staff was to rehabilitate and release her. Guadalupe fur seals are protected in the U.S. as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and it is the policy to make every effort to return threatened species to their habitat if the animal demonstrates the ability to survive on its own. This animal failed to do so and the decision was made not to release her. The National Marine Fisheries Service was the ultimate decision maker on her fate, based upon reports of her condition by husbandry staff.

“She will fly down on a FedEx flight accompanied by two SeaWorld staff who will arrive here ahead of flight time, this week, to familiarize themselves with her,” said Judy Tuttle, Aquarium Curator of Mammals. “She obviously feels much better now and she vocalizes a lot,” said Tuttle. “She appears to enjoy interacting with mammal staff.” Tuttle said she will live in warmer waters of her natural habitat and will be well cared for by Sea World staff.

She was brought in with a healed scar on her back that husbandry staff speculated might be a shark bite. She also had a prolapsed lens (no vision) in on eye and a very large cataract in her good eye, indicating poor vision. By the end of August the seal showed signs of improvement and in October, Veterinarian Dr. Sara Maxwell, consultant to veterinarian Dr. Brown, looked at the seal’s cataract and determined that she was not a candidate for cataract surgery or for release in her opinion. A broken canine tooth was removed in November and the seal was again evaluated for its ability to be released. At that time, an examination by Dr. Brown determined that she had no teeth in her lower right jaw, and the appearance of her teeth indicated that she is an old animal.

By November Aquarium husbandry staff recommended to the National Marine Fisheries Service that the Guadalupe fur seal not be released and talks began with Sea World in San Diego about transferring her there. Since she would not be released back into the wild, human imprinting would no longer be a concern, so mammalogists began to train her to come to a station to be fed. She will live the rest of her days with other fur seals and California sea lions in her new home. The cost of caring for the seal was covered in part by the National Marine Fisheries Service and grants from the Kinsman Foundation and the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation.

“We are proud to use our expertise to mitigate human impact on injured wildlife and to help in the recovery of endangered or threatened wildlife,” said Jim Burke, Aquarium Director of Animal Husbandry. “This Guadalupe Fur seal is one of an estimated population of about 7,000 and we were happy to play a role in the efforts to get her back to the wild.” Burke said that although the seal cannot be released, she will play an important role in helping to educate people about the uniqueness of her species.