#41: New York Here We Come!

Very soon we will be on the road to the New York Aquarium (NYAq). Before that happens, I wanted to give you an idea of what is really involved with moving the fur seals. I think you will be surprised to find it is very similar to how human beings travel.

So, while Belinda does some homework on our destination, I will tell you what we need before we go:

  • Travel Papers. Similar to how we need passports to travel, we need to get government documents stating that the fur seals can travel from one aquarium to another.

    • Insurance. Just like you (or your parents) carry medical insurance cards in case you have to see the doctor while you are gone, we have sent all of the fur seals' medical information to NYAq. That way the veterinary staff will know their history (like your doctor does) and can take the best possible care of them while they are there.
    • Travel Books. Some people like to bring travel books so that they can learn about their destination. What to see, where to eat, and what historical sites to see. The fur seals will also be traveling with books, but these books are for the trainers at the NYAq. They will help the trainers learn about these specific fur seals--what they know, what they eat, what they have done in the past

  • Transportation. How are you going to get there? When you are traveling, you want to get to your final destination as quickly as possible, but you also want to be practical. Lets face it, you are going to have some luggage. So if you are traveling nearby, you drive; if traveling far away, you fly. Same thing for fur seals. Since we are only going a few hours away, we will be driving down. But we will not be taking the family minivan - we have a truck. A big one. It's nice.

  • Luggage. What do you need to make your trip enjoyable? Our girls are packing the following: ice, ice, ice, and...oh yeah...ice. They like to travel cold. Brrr! They are also packing a few things which will help the trainers know more about them.
  • Travel Buddies. While you may travel by yourself, our fur seals do not. In addition to the three fur seals, there are seven people taking the trip. While each one has a specific role to play, everyone will be working to make sure the seals have a safe transport and a smooth transition to their new home.

  • Security. No trip is complete without the security check. Cordova, you are good to go!

So I think we are set. See you in New York!!


#40: Fur Seals Are Moving!

By this time next week, the fur seals will no longer be at the New England Aquarium...for a little while at least. Construction for the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center is set to start soon with the hopes that it will be open for next summer. So in the meantime, the fur seals will head out of town. Baranov, our temporary summer resident, will be returning to the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration, while the females, Chainsaw, Cordova, and Ursula will head to the New York Aquarium. While we will all miss them, we are looking forward to working with them again in the new exhibit. Stay tuned - we will be posting blogs on what it takes to move these seals. And for those of you who haven't been in to see the seals recently, buy your tickets now. See you soon!




#39: Behind the Scenes

The marine mammals have space adjacent to their exhibit where they can warm up, cool down, sleep or just chill.

Since our visitors rarely have a chance to see these "behind the scenes" areas, here are a few candid shots. Today's focus is on fur seals since they'll be relocating soon while we make some exciting improvements to the exhibit.

Cordova is the first one awake this morning. Make that half awake.

What a yawn! The sound that comes out of Cordova's mouth is big too.

Cordova (left) and her mom Chainsaw dry and fuzzy. "Lights on" came a little too early for them today.

Patty chatting with Chainsaw before she begins the morning cleaning. It takes an hour in the morning to clean up what the fur seals leave behind over night. If you look closely at the first picture of Cordova, you'll see a pile of squid quills and beaks. These aren't nutritious and the fur seals have an interesting way of getting rid of them. They cough them up much like a cat with a hairball.

Just another day in the glamorous life of a marine mammal trainer!
Bon Appetite,


#38: Crustacean Homecoming

Cool picture of the day: Erin putting Chewie the lobster back into the exhibit with Chacoda and Amelia checking things out. I wonder what they're thinking...



#37: Summer Camp

Summer Camp Aquarium Style

When I was younger I went to summer camp. From what I remember there were mosquitoes, a really cold lake and raccoons that broke into my tent. There are many more summer camp options these days. This summer we have hosted the Aquarium's Harbor Discoveries Camp for a sneak peek behind the scenes of our exhibits.

Campers feeding Myrtle the green sea turtle.

Feeling Reggae's belly.

Observing seals having their teeth brushed.

This isn't your typical summer camp. Along with the usual smores eatin' and kumbaya-in' that they do on their overnight trips, these kids are also serious thinkers! The groups we hosted focused on animal husbandry and aquarium exhibit design. Along with in-depth discussions about animal care, we also found some time to have a couple of intimate encounters with the seals and Myrtle the green sea turtle.




#36: Cleaning House

One of the most important parts of a trainer's job is keeping the seals' environment clean and safe. However this doesn't just apply to the food prep areas or to the rocks that the seals haul out on. The trainers (and some of our SCUBA certified volunteers) dive in the front seal exhibit twice weekly to "clean house." First thing's first though.

We feed Chewie, our seventeen pound lobster. Though his diet varies, right now he's eating only shrimp. Next it's time to pick up the seal toys and take them topside where they'll be scrubbed and disinfected. In the warm, sunny weather algae grows very quickly in the exhibit. So our visitors can get a clear view of our harbor seals we take a soft, textured cloth and wipe off any algae that might be growing on the glass. Then it's time for the "dirty" work: vacuuming up all the loose algae, detritus (look it up!) and fecal matter that settles on the bottom of the tank. Even though it's a lot of work setting up and breaking down the vacuum and dive gear, the opportunity to spend a little time with the seals in their underwater home makes it all worth it.
Plus, you never know when you might find a little buried "treasure."

(In this cleaning session I found a whisker!)



#35: Seal Eyes

In this picture you can see a great shot of Chainsaw's eyes. Most would think that the mottled look to the eye ball is a bit odd. For Chainsaw, this is a genetic disorder which causes her to lose the pigment, or the color, of her eye. Originally a dark brown, over the years the eye color is fading away to a purple-whitish hue with some brown spots.

This genetic issue does not effect her eyesight in any way; the cataracts do that. Chainsaw has developed cataracts in both of her eyes that prevent her from seeing much at all. This is not a problem for a seal due to their ultra-sensitive whiskers, or vibrissae, which you can also see pointing forward in the photo. Vibrissae are a much longer subject, so look forward to a blog on that topic in the near future. 'Til then enjoy looking at Chainsaw's sweet face.




#34: Molting Update

The molting season is in full swing for the harbor seals. Here are some photos from the past few days of Smoke, our oldest harbor seal.

The brown areas are patches of old hair, the silver is all new stuff.