News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351, sondra.katzen@czs.org
January 24, 2020                                                  
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Seeing Double—Two Gray Seals Born at Brookfield Zoo
 
Brookfield, Ill.—Guests will be seeing double with the recent additions at Brookfield Zoo. Two gray seals were born on January 9 and 10. The female pups are currently behind the scenes bonding with their mothers, Lily and Tasha, and are practicing their swimming skills in a pool specially designed for the newborns. This modified pool is shallow, which allows the pups to practice navigating in their aquatic environment with easy access out. The pups will make their public debut sometime in early spring.

In anticipation of both births, the Chicago Zoological Society’s (CZS) marine mammal care staff had been monitoring Lily and Tasha around the clock and were present when both pups were born. CZS staff continued these observations for about a week and a half following the pups’ births to ensure the young animals were progressing well.

This is the fourth successful birth for Lily, who turns 16 on January 25. Her previous offspring—all males born in 2014, 2016, and 2017—are currently on breeding loans at other accredited North American zoos. The other pup is the first successful birth for 16-year-old Tasha. The two moms are half-sisters and arrived at Brookfield Zoo in November 2007. The sire of both newborns is 19-year-old Kiinaq (pronounced KEY-knack), who arrived at Brookfield Zoo in 2018. Kiinaq was stranded in the wild and deemed unreleasable when he was only a few months old.

The recent arrival of Kiinaq to Brookfield Zoo was based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Gray Seal Species Survival Plan® (SSP). An SSP is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in accredited North American zoos and aquariums. “These are the first female gray seals to be born at Brookfield Zoo and are very significant because they will help us maintain a healthy and genetically diverse self-sustaining population for the species in professional care,” said Rita Stacey, curator of marine mammals for CZS and also the AZA’s studbook keeper and population management planner for gray seals. In this role, she documents the pedigree and the entire demographic history of each individual in the gray seal population.

At birth, gray seal pups are born with long, white fur called lanugo (pronounced la-NOO-go), which is molted in two to four weeks and replaced with shorter, stiffer hair similar to that of adults. Although guests probably won’t see the pups in the outdoor habitat at Pinniped Point prior to their molting, they can view updated photos and video on the zoo’s website at CZS.org/GraySealPups or on Brookfield Zoo’s Facebook page.

In the wild, gray seal pups are born in the winter and weaned at three weeks of age--one of the shortest nursing periods among pinnipeds (a group of marine mammals that are winged- or web-footed.) The milk of a lactating gray seal is extremely rich. The two pups weighed 32 and 36 pounds at birth and have been gaining several pounds a day since—nearly tripling their weight in their first two weeks of life. By the time they are weaned in about a week, they will have nearly quadrupled their birth weight. Gray seal pups need to grow quickly because once weaned they are on their own and need to be able to fend for themselves as they go out to sea to hunt for food.

“Once the pups begin to wean from their mothers, the marine mammal care staff will begin offering fish to the young gray seals,” said Stacey. “At that time, the pups will begin to establish their relationships with the care team, which is important for the animals’ overall healthcare and well-being.”

The gray seal population is currently doing well in the wild—Western North Atlantic, the Eastern North Atlantic, and the Baltic Sea—however, they still face threats such as entanglement, human-caused injuries, water pollution, and climate change. The population in North American zoos and aquariums is 25 individuals in 10 facilities, including the five gray seals at Brookfield Zoo.
 
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About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit CZS.org.
 

Photo Captions—credit Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

129L and 1276L: One of two grey seal pups born at Brookfield Zoo. The female was born on January 9, and is currently behind the scenes bonding with her mother, Lily. At birth, grey seal pups are born with long, white fur called lanugo (pronounced la-NOO-go), which is molted in two to four weeks and replaced with shorter, stiffer hair similar to that of adults.

3699L: A 2-week-old female grey seal is one of two born recently at Brookfield Zoo. Both pups are behind the scenes bonding with their mothers.

3790L: A 2-week-old female grey seal pup with her mom Lily. The two are currently bonding behind the scenes at Brookfield Zoo. The pup, along with another pup are expected to make their public debut at the zoo’s Pinniped Point this spring.

0734T: A grey seal pup born at Brookfield Zoo on January 10 is currently bonding with her mom, Tasha, behind the scenes. The newborn, along with another female pup born on January 9, will make their public debut in the spring.

0998T: A 4-day-old female grey seal with her mom Tasha. The two are currently behind the scenes at Brookfield Zoo bonding. The pup, born on January 10, along with another pup born a day earlier, will make their public debut at the zoo’s Pinniped Point this spring.

3895T: A 12-day-old grey seal pup born on January 10 is practicing her swimming skills behind the scenes at Brookfield Zoo under the watchful eye of her mom Tasha. The modified pool is shallow, which allows the pup to practice navigating in her aquatic environment with easy access out.

 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071
E-mail: Sondra.Katzen@CZS.org

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