Los Angeles Zoo Provides a Home for Abandoned Harbor Seal Pup

CONTACT: April Spurlock

January 23, 2017

The Female Pup “Ziggy” Will Join The Zoo’s Three Harbor Seals To Help Educate Guests on Native California Marine Life

Female pup “Ziggy” by Jamie Pham

The Los Angeles Zoo is excited to welcome an 11-month-old Pacific harbor seal named Ziggy as the newest member of the family group at Sea Life Cliffs. The female pup arrived at the L.A. Zoo on November 1, 2016 after receiving rehabilitation from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Beach.

PMMC staff discovered the day-old pup stranded close to a narrow, rocky stretch of coast at Dana Point Headlands Beach on February 3, 2016 with the umbilical cord still attached to her premature body. As the area wasn’t a beach where harbor seals normally give birth and the mother was nowhere to be found, the decision was made to rescue the abandoned pup and transport her to their Laguna Beach facility to begin a rehabilitation process.

Harbor seal pups often nurse from their mother for close to a month, and PMMC staff knew they needed to provide the newborn with the proper nutrition and formula that simulated her mother’s milk. They began bottle feeding the pup around the clock for the first couple of weeks and then cut back to five to six times a day, slowly weaning her off milk until her diet comprised solely of fish. Because Ziggy was raised in captivity at such an early age, PMMC staff didn’t feel she could survive on her own in the wild and she was deemed non-releasable. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) helped connect PMMC to the Los Angeles Zoo as a potential full-time home for Ziggy.

“Although the goal for organizations such as the Pacific Marine Mammal Center is to re-release rehabilitated animals back into the wild, this wasn’t an option for Ziggy since she was found at such a young age,” said Josh Sisk, Curator of Mammals at the Los Angeles Zoo. “It is pretty common for Zoos to assist in providing a good home for non-releasable seals and sea lions. Ziggy has been introduced to the other harbor seals in the family, and already we can see how her high energy has been good enrichment for the other seals.”

Ziggy currently shares her L.A. Zoo habitat, Sea Life Cliffs, with three Atlantic harbor seals ­male Alfred, estimated to be around 14 years old, and females Asia and Mysti, both in their mid-twenties. Ziggy has begun training on a variety of behaviors to ensure her health and stimulate her energy. “Ziggy is very smart and catches on to her training incredibly fast,” says Kris Willis, Los Angeles Zoo Animal Keeper. “She is already participating in our Enhanced Visitor Experience talks, and as much as she enjoys learning new behaviors you can tell she also enjoys interacting with guests at the underwater viewing window.”

The Zoo’s harbor seals are trained in behaviors to assist them in receiving medical care, enrichment, and exercise. Medical care training allows animal care staff to brush their teeth, give them daily eye drops, and conduct voluntary blood draws. They receive additional enrichment training and exercise to keep them active.

At birth, harbor seal pups weigh between 18 and 30 pounds. Adult males can reach 370 pounds and can grow up to six feet long; making them slightly larger than adult females. Even though the colors of harbor seals vary between individuals, they typically range from blue to a grey-black with a light underside and dark spots throughout. Ziggy was born blonde but is now a shade of brown.

Guests can view the harbor seals, including Ziggy, daily at Sea Life Cliffs. They can also learn firsthand about the care they receive from their devoted animal keepers during the Enhanced Visitor Experience talks given jointly by Education and Animal Care staff on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. Activities and schedules may vary or be subject to cancellation due to weather conditions or animal needs.

About the Los Angeles Zoo

Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the landmark Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, drawing nearly 1.8 million visitors each year, is home to a diverse collection of 1,100 animals representing 250 different species, many of which are rare or endangered. Its lush grounds on 113 acres feature a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $20 for adults and $15 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200 or visit the L.A. Zoo Web site at www.lazoo.org.