The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, is happy to announce its first birth of 2014: a grey seal pup that also happens to be the first of its species ever born at the zoo. The male pup was born on New Year’s Day around 7:00 a.m. He and his mother, Lily, 10, will remain off exhibit for several weeks to allow them time to bond with one another.
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. Although guests will most likely not be able to see the pup on exhibit at Pinniped Point before he molts, they can view updated photos and video of him on the zoo’s Web site at www.CZS.org/GreySealPup or Facebook page. Also, video of the pup can be seen on the monitor located in the Seven Seas Underwater Viewing gallery.
At birth, the pup weighed just over 25 pounds, and staff estimate that he will triple or quadruple his weight in the next month. The mom’s milk is extremely rich, and the pup will gain several pounds a day. He will nurse from Lily for about two to three weeks and then will be introduced to a fish diet.
Brookfield Zoo is now home to six grey seals, the most in any North American institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. This birth, as well as the pup’s gender, is significant to the overall North American population, which consists of only five males and 17 females. Rita Stacey, curator of marine mammals for the Society, is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums studbook keeper for grey seals. In this role, Stacey documents the pedigree and entire demographic history of each individual in the grey seal population. These collective histories are known as the population’s genetic and demographic identity and are invaluable tools that track and manage each individual cared for in North American institutions.
In addition to Lily and her pup, other members of the grey seal group at Brookfield Zoo include Boone, 10, the pup’s father; male Minnow, 27; and females Tasha, 10, and Della, 23.
Grey seals can be found in coastal waters and are divided into three separate populations: the Western North Atlantic, the Eastern North Atlantic, and the Baltic Sea.