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BPZOO’s Seal Pod is Now at Three

BPZOO’s Seal Pod is Now at Three

BPZOO’s Seal Pod is Now at Three

Pictured Above: Luna

New Bedford, Massachusetts: The Buttonwood Park Zoo is thrilled to introduce two new female harbor seals to the New Bedford community – Luna, age two, and Conway, age one. These new residents arrived in early November from the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn, NY, and have already bonded with long-time zoo resident, Blue.

Blue was born at BPZOO in 2003 to Yellow, a female Atlantic harbor seal who passed away earlier this year, one week shy of her 40th birthday. Wanting to ensure companionship for Blue, as well as support the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan, Zoo leadership eagerly accepted the recommendation to bring Luna and Conway to BPZOO.

Both seals were introduced to Blue straight away, and they quickly acclimated to their new home.

“There were lots of nose-to-nose breath exchanges at first and then Luna immediately sat on Blue’s back – who was not bothered by it in the least,” said Kristy Kaeterle, BPZOO’s head Zookeeper. “We knew then that this was going to go well!”

Kaeterle describes Conway, who had darker coloring and more obvious white markings, as a little seal with lots of personality. “She made herself at home immediately – she follows us around quite a bit and is very interested in the enrichment we offer. Luna is a little more reserved but is coming out of her shell more and more each day.”

Luna, who was born on the night of a lunar eclipse and named after Luna Park on Coney Island, has a similar appearance to Blue – lighter grey with darker spots. Conway was named after the late Dr. William Conway, an iconic conservationist who retired as the president and general director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the organization that manages the Brooklyn Aquarium.

BPZOO has cared for seals for over five decades and as a waterfront community, is dedicated to connecting visitors to the importance of marine mammal conservation.

“The team is excited to welcome the new harbor seals to our pod at the Buttonwood Park Zoo. We are grateful to have this opportunity to create new zoo families through partnerships with our accredited zoo neighbors and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). ” said Gary Lunsford, Zoo Director.

All three seals are currently visible in the seal habitat, located in the middle of the Zoo.

Keeper Kyler with Yellow the Harbor Seal

Pictured Above: Conway

About Atlantic Harbor Seals

Seals are part of a group of mammals called pinnipeds, which translates to “fin-footed”. There are a total of 18 species in the Phocidae family. Harbor seals are part of the true seal family. All true seals have short forelimbs, or flippers. They also lack external ear flaps and instead have a small hole (opening to the ear canal) on either side of their head. Harbor seals live in temperate coastal habitats along the northern coasts of North America, Europe, and Asia. They weigh up to 285 pounds and measure up to 6 feet in length. In North America males are slightly larger than females, and seals in Alaska and the Pacific Ocean are generally larger than those found in the Atlantic Ocean. Harbor seals, like all marine mammals, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and are currently listed as Least Concern according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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Mourning the Loss of Beloved Atlantic Harbor Seal

Mourning the Loss of Beloved Atlantic Harbor Seal

BPZOO Mourns the Loss of Beloved Atlantic Harbor Seal

New Bedford, Massachusetts: Buttonwood Park Zoo is mourning the loss of Yellow, a female Atlantic harbor seal, who came to BPZOO after being rescued from a Cape Cod beach in 1983. One of BPZOO’s most beloved and iconic animals, Yellow exceeded life expectancy for an Atlantic harbor seal, as she was less than a week from her 40th birthday.

Yellow, as one of BPZOO’s oldest residents, and the oldest female Atlantic harbor seal in an institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) was under careful monitoring and care for many age-related illnesses. Recently, animal care staff noticed a reduction in her appetite, and increasing troublesome neurological signs, such as lethargy, decreased mobility, and, finally, seizures.

After a variety of diagnostic tests, including bloodwork, a whole-body CT scan and infectious disease testing it became clear that her condition was continuing to deteriorate.  Due to advanced age, poor prognosis, and a major decline in her quality of life, Zoo leadership, animal care, and veterinary teams made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her. She passed away surrounded by her animal care team. A necropsy has been performed and biopsies were submitted with results pending.

“It was an incredibly difficult decision; one that we did not come to lightly,” said BPZOO’s Director, Gary Lunsford. “Yellow was a wonderful ambassador for her species and beloved by so many. We know her loss will be profoundly felt by her extensive animal care team as well as the many volunteers and guests who had the pleasure of interacting with her over the last 40 years.”

Known for being very sweet, and a little sassy, Yellow thrived under the expert care at BPZOO. Kristy Kaeterle and her twin sister Kerry Silvia cared for Yellow for more than two decades.

“There are so many things that we loved about her and will miss forever – like her impatient little snorts when we were taking too long with the fish that she loved so much. She also had impeccable timing, always knocking the pool brush out of our hands at just the right moment bringing a laugh from us, every time.”

It wasn’t just animal care staff that noticed her silly behavior – guests also commented on Yellow’s quirky habit of napping at the bottom of her pool.

“Guests would constantly ask us ‘What is she doing?’ – and we would assure them that she was just taking a little nap!”

Yellow gave birth to Blue, her sole living offspring in 2003 and together they built strong relationships with their caretakers.  These strong connections allowed for hands-on vet exams and close monitoring of their health, contributing to her longevity. Yellow knew more than 25 trained behaviors, including stationing on a scale, allowing keepers to brush her teeth, place drops in her eyes and even presenting herself for x-rays, vaccines, and blood draws.

One of the most beautiful ways this relationship was showcased was through Yellow’s unique artwork, featured yearly in BPZOO’s annual Art Gone Wild Auction as well Zoolala.

“If you have a seal flipper print in the shape of a flower – cherish it. It was her specialty. She taught us many things over the years, but one of the most important lessons we learned was the importance of trust in a friendship,” said Kaeterle and Silvia.

Yellow will be deeply missed.

Keeper Kyler with Yellow the Harbor Seal

A Gift That Lasts All Year! 

BPZOO Memberships make a perfect gift for the animal lover in your life.