#153: Happy Holidays

What a year! When we look back through the blogs, a lot of exciting things happened. We trained different species of animals, opened the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center, and welcomed a new colony of Northern Fur Seals. While the holidays can be a busy time, we wanted to take a minute and thank everyone who followed us this year. We really appreciated the interest, the questions and the support. Here's to another great year!

Happy Holidays,

(See the Marine Mammal Team's equally adorable 2008 holiday card here.)



#152: Sounds of the seals

Snoring, bleating, purring? This sounds like my house after the Thanksgiving meal. Imagine my surprise when I heard the same sounds coming from the Northern fur seals. Last month I posted examples of Baranov's "whickering." Ursula makes some unique sounds of her own.

Ursula had been quiet as the proverbial church mouse during her first year and a half with us. Then, only occasionally, we would hear a sound similar to that of a bleating sheep. This sound is made by some female fur seals as they enter estrus (what we refer to as "in heat" for dogs). Recently some staff members described a new sound from Ursula as a clicking or rumbling in her throat. I was able to record the sound while waiting for work to be completed on an exhibit door. Unfortunately, the recording also picks up the door being rattled so some of Ursula's sounds are covered. Her clicking sound is made with her mouth closed and goes for the first two seconds, then right as it goes to three you hear the first of the door sounds.

I tried to catch the sound again in this video, but became captivated by Baranov's territorial display. You'll see Isaac head for the water, but Cordova seems less than concerned by Baranov roaring in her face.




#151: Seal of the Week - Cayenne

After a long hiatus, as we acclimated our fur seals to their new surroundings, we are back for seal of the week! This week we are going to highlight Cayenne.

Cayenne, often referred to as "Cay," is the youngest of our females. Her mother Trumpet gave birth to her on June 6, 1993. She has a younger brother Chacoda, born in 1995. Some physical characteristics that help define Cay are the dark spots on her belly, almond shaped eyes, and a petite frame. Typically she weighs between 130 - 150 pounds so you can often point her out because she is the smallest of our seals.

Cayenne is very attentive to the goings on in her exhibit. Whether someone is cleaning the exhibit, doing enrichment or giving a group tour, Cayenne is sure to be keeping track of all that we are doing. She has often been deemed the "watchdog" of our harbor seals.

If you happen to be walking by the exhibit, you will typically find Cay spending time in the shallow end. You may even be able to play with her. From time to time, we find that Cayenne will interact with objects or visitors on the other side of the glass that attract her attention. One day, a trainer observed her following the path of a plastic bag blowing around the plaza in the wind. Sometimes, a simple hand movement back and forth in front of the glass is enough to capture her curiosity. Check out this previous post and to see what I mean! This post has another video of glass enrichment with Cayenne. You never know what she may find interesting so if you capture her eye, give it a try!




#150: Thanksgiving with the seals

This year, Rochelle and I spent Thanksgiving at the aquarium. We had a lovely day and feasted with our 12 seals; yummm...

The menu: A juicy, succulent Herring with a side of calamari. And no Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without the smelts.

By the afternoon, bellies were full and naps were taken...

But not before Reggae made us a lovely holiday painting!


-Lindsay and Ro...

and Lana, Smoke, Reggae, Amelia, Trumpet, Cayenne, Chacoda, Ursula, Cordova, JD, Baranov, and Isaac



#148: A formal introduction to Isaac the Northern fur seal

It is high time we officially introduce you to our youngest male Northern fur seal, Isaac. Isaac is 9 years old and currently weighs in at just over 200 pounds, though we expect him to nearly double in size in the next few years.

Isaac was born at the Seattle Aquarium and is named after Chris Isaak, who happened to be playing nearby at the time. When he moved out here, he traveled with a trainer by FedEx (we still have the packing slip!).

During the last few months, we have been working with Isaac to fine-tune some of his behaviors, including his head shake (so you can see his handsome hair), vocal (it sounds like a purr), and open mouth. He is doing great!



#147: Yoga with the fur seals on the news

Did you know that to stay healthy, a lot of people are doing some of the same behaviors that our fur seals do? That's right. Stop in to any local yoga studio and you will see people doing poses that look a lot like what Cordova and Ursula do on a daily basis.

Trainer Lindsay and Ursula the Northern fur seal show kids how to stretch.

The marine mammal staff has paired with Abbie Davies, founder and owner of My First Yoga, to show that everyone does the same things to stay healthy. Just check out this story that recently aired on NECN to learn a little more, then come on in and join us during one of our Fitness Friday presentations.



#146: Learn a new fur seal behavior - What's a Whicker?

Male fur seals make a sound referred to as a "whicker." It is difficult to describe and can vary between a breathy, clicking sound to more distinct clicks. Males tend to whicker when defending territory or when courting female fur seals during breeding season.


Listen closely during the video and you can hear Baranov whickering. It seemed he was responding to a sound made by one of the other seals. He whickered on and off for several minutes this morning before falling back to sleep.

~ Jenny



#145: Good Morning JD

This is JD shortly after waking up one morning. She rested most of the night on deck and you can see how dry and furry she really is.



#144: Jenny answers marine mammal training questions in The Boston Globe

If you're a marine mammal fan, today is a good day to pick up The Boston Globe. The Aquarium's own Jenny Montague is featured in the G-Force interview section. She's already written about how she got her start training marine mammals for this blog, but this interview has some new insights, such as who's Jenny's favorite seal to work with right now and a sneak preview of Jenny's upcoming Aquarium lecture. It's free and open to the public, but you better register here before it fills up!



#143: Baranov the Northern fur seal moves into his new home

Baranov is back! Last time he was at the Aquarium, he enjoyed doing his impression of a fur seal monorail on the previous exhibit's bridge. Now he's back and he has a much larger, brand new space to explore in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center.

Baranov arriving at the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center (left) and in his previous home at the Mystic Aquarium (right).

So how do you transport a Northern fur seal that weighs between 400 and 500 pounds? A simple dolly isn't enough... the team used a forklift. Here's a photo slide show of the move. Press play to get it started!



#142: Fur Seal Over Ice on The Boston Globe's front page

If you've seen the front page of The Boston Globe today, you've seen Ursula, a Northern fur seal, relaxing on 300 pounds of ice. While her exhibit at the aquarium is a pleasant 58 degrees F, Ursula still enjoys this cool spot.

Photo by David Ryan/Globe Staff

Northern fur seals are found throughout the Pacific Rim from Japan to California and are comfortable in a wide range of temperatures. The ice blocks were brought to the exhibit by the Aquarium's Director of Communications, Tony LaCasse. He thought the fur seals would have fun with ice blocks on a hot and humid day. He picked up 900 pounds of ice and schlepped it to the aquarium in his Toyota Matrix. Clearly, Ursula is now Tony's biggest fan!

- Jenny



#141: Seal of the week: Reggae

It has been a while since our seal of the week blog. The arrival of our fur seals and the opening of the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center has certainly kept us busy. So, sorry for the delay and on we go with our Seal Of The Week! This week we are going to highlight Reggae.

Reggae is a male Atlantic harbor seal born at the New England Aquarium on May 30, 1993. He is the son of Smoke and the brother of Amelia. Just like Smoke, Reggae has no spots on his belly. He also happens to be the largest of our seals. His maximum weight is 230 lbs!

Reggae knows a lot of different behaviors. One of the newest is a high five that Lindsay posted last week. Check it out! He also recently had an x-ray done of his teeth. Through training, Reggae learned to hold a small x-ray plate in his mouth while on his back. He had to hold completely still with the hand held x-ray machine against his chin. Stay tuned for a video blog showing how great Reggae was during the procedure.

In addition to doing x-rays of his teeth, we also brush Reggae's teeth on a regular basis. Unlike humans, seals have no molars for chewing. Reggae uses his sharp teeth to grip onto the fish that we feed him and then he swallows it down whole. His birthday blog shows what that looks like. We want to make sure that those teeth stay in tip top shape. Here is a picture of Reggae having his teeth brushed.

We are always working on new things with Reggae so every session is different. We feed Reggae and his exhibit mates four times a day so come check it out!




#140: Harbor Seal HIGH FIVE!

This was my first behavior I trained with Reggae from start to finish. I actually trained it twice; the first time I did it, I didn't notice how much his flipper was curling in when he hit my hand-that hurts! So I backed up a few steps and fixed that flipper flat.

It was a cool learning experience to know that you can go back to tweak an already trained behavior. What a smart seal!



#139: The Art of Jug Handling

This is a really cool video of Isaac, our 9-year-old male Northern fur seal, jug handling. Check out Patty's previous post here, for information on why they hang around in this neat position. It's hard to tell where each flipper is when he is already in position, but keep watching as he unfolds and folds his flippers back into place.

Isaac shows us how this resting behavior looks from start to finish-almost in slow motion!



#138: Ursula the Sliding Fur Seal

Ursula the Northern fur seal likes to slide on the ramp down to the holding room pool! She will slide during, after and in between training sessions.

Looks like fun to me! Check out he video: