Look at Leu!

Male Northern fur seals grow at an incredible rate, and our male Leu is no exception. He came to us in June of 2012 at approximately nine months of age and he weighed only 29 lbs. His tiny size was due to the fact that he was found stranded as a very young pup along the coast of California. If you have been following our Marine Mammal Trainers Blog, you may remember the videos we showed you of Leu as a baby. He was missing some patches of guard hair but even then he was such a good looking little guy. The video below shows his first introduction to our behind the scenes area. Look at how cute he is!

Video from June 2012

Since that video was taken, Leu has been growing in leaps and bounds. As a growing animal he takes lots of naps and his favorite places to sleep are in the turtle pool and on our tactile toy in our holding room. Here are some pictures taken over the past two years.

August 2013   
February 2014

Just last week at Leu weighed in at 106 lbs but, despite his growing body, he still loves to nap in his favorite toys. Check out the latest pictures we have taken, he barely fits!

November 2014

November 2014

For more updates on Leu and the rest of our marine mammals, keep checking in on our Marine Mammal Trainers Blog.


Learn more about Leu:


Pfflt! Silly sea lion

If you've ever wondered what a sea lion tongue looks like, Seirra here can show you! She often sticks her tongue out during quiet moments—and we happen to think it's just plain adorable.

Sierra the California sea lion, "Plllffffft!"

Quiet moments for this gal are few and far between, however. You'll usually find her romping with her fellow sea lion, Zoe, or carousing with the youngsters—Leu, Flaherty, Chiidax and Kit.

Zoe and Sierra are two peas in a pod. 

Sometimes the trainers engage the seals and sea lions with a little enrichment—something out of the ordinary that's fun to explore and play with. A plain old garden sprinkler works for this!

Sprinkler time

Sierra's athletic and acrobatic sides are often on full display during training sessions. Head out to the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center during your next visit to check on Sierra and the rest of the rambunctious crew of marine mammals. You never know what these fast and fascinating animals will be up to!

Learn more about the marine mammal training and play:


Halloween with Leu

On Thursday, the trainers provided pumpkins for the seals and sea lions to explore as a festive means of enrichment. Exploring new textures and shapes and smells is a fun activity that keeps these marine mammals healthy and happy. 

This is how the Leu the fur seal and Zoe the sea lion celebrated Halloween!

Leu, a rescued Northern fur seal

Leu dove right into the activity, snarfing small fish and squid from the jack-o-lantern

Leu even stuffed his whole head into the pumpkin,
and then tried to dribble the gourd into the water!

Zoe, California sea lion

Zoe did not enjoy playing with the pumpkins as much, until...

... the pumpkin splashed into the water. Then there were some curious pumpkin bobbers!

More fun with the marine mammals:


Frisbee Fun

You may not know that Leu the Northern fur seal LOVES to play catch (just like our sea lion ladies). It's a game he's been playing since he arrived 2012. I thought it would be fun to see if he could hone those tossing skills and play a friendly game of Frisbee with me.

In no time, he had a signature throw down! Even if it happens to fall, Leu will pick it up quickly and send it back to me. This has been in the works for just a few days —see how good he already is! He'll be ready for ultimate in no time...

Maybe Leu is dreaming of Frisbees



Let's go for a spin!

Earlier this year, we followed Chacoda into the water, thanks to his special ability to wear a GoPro harness. The harness fits around his front flippers and a critter cam sits snug on his back. Chuck (as he's affectionately known in these parts) and Paul worked together for some time so this handsome harbor seal could learn to wear the harness while swimming and diving around the exhibit.

Adjusting the camera: Above the water

This skill gives us a special opportunity to see what it's like to effortlessly navigate the habitat in this Front Plaza exhibit and even spring out of the water during a training session! Today's cool video shows us both sides of that story: the traditional above-water perspective of trainers in the exhibit and below the water from Chucky's point of view! Take a look.

Not only does this skill of Chacoda's provide a fun way to explore the exhibit underwater, learning new skills such as wearing a harness is a good way to keep this harbor seal active both mentally and physically. Trainers also teach seals behaviors that can help with their medical care, such as opening their mouths for tooth brushing or presenting a flipper so a vet can examine it or draw blood.

Adjusting the camera: Chacoda's perspective

The harbor seals cruising among the toys in their exhibit

Come by to see the harbor seals in their Front Plaza exhibit. You'll have new appreciation for the agility and abilities of these athletic harbor seals!

Check out these links to learn more about the harbors seals:


Look who's 2!

Just days after his dad had a birthday, little Flaherty is celebrating his second birthday at the Aquarium today! He'll enjoy some extra helpings of fish in honor of the occasion, while we all ooh and ahh over how much he's grown.

The birthday boy now...

...around one years old in his, erm, pudgy stage...

...and as a newborn pup, beside his mum, Ursula.

On Monday, Flaherty's dad enjoyed a birthday feast of whole herring and squid for his special day. Isaac was born at the Seattle aquarium 14 years ago! It's hard to imagine that little Flaherty could one day grow to be as big as Isaac. That'll take a couple more years. (Here's how Isaac celebrated last year.)

Check out that hair and those whiskers! 

Of course, to Isaac and Flaherty and Ursula, birthdays feel just like every other day, filled with interaction with their trainers, plenty of time to swim and groom, rough house and, of course, snooze.

With all those youngsters splashing around all day,
it's no wonder that Isaac and Ursula need a nap now and then. 

Come check out the action in the marine mammal center! Buy your tickets online and print them at home, that's the fastest way to get in the door to see the fur seals and sea lions.


Here's how Leu celebrated July 4

We hope everyone enjoyed a fabulous July 4th holiday—no matter what day you celebrated this weekend. Here at the marine mammal center (where a roof protects the open-air exhibit from the full brunt of the elements, thank you very much, Arthur), the seals got festive with some enriching toys during their training session. Here's Leu demonstrating his flag waving skills.

You're a grand ol' seal!
Photo: Lindsay Jones

Now that you're here, come stay a while and get to know Leu!


Awesome Take a Dip Video

Every spring our interactive program with the seals switches over from the winter program to an even more immersive activity called Take a Dip with the Marine Mammals. This popular program gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the marine mammal exhibits—either the harbor seal exhibit on the front plaza or the marine mammal center overlooking Boston Harbor with fur seals and sea lions—and lets you get in the water with the animals!

Billy Hoysgaard shared his video with us and we thought it would be a fantastic way to impress on our blog readers just how close you can get to the animals with this fantastic Aquarium experience! Here's his first-hand perspective.

Take a Dip with a harbor seal at the New England Aquarium by Billy Hoysgaard

As Billy experienced, visitors slide down to sit in the water and work side by side with a trainer. While the actual activities each visitor will do varies depending on the animal that day, participants will likely be able to feed, rub an animal's fur, deliver hand signals and maybe even get a kiss.

"I learned so much from the trainer Erin, and Lana the seal," Billy said. "Erin was really welcoming, warm, informative and knowledgable. Whether Lana was doing twirls or giving kisses, she was so well behaved...and beautiful! I loved feeding her, and working on a new 'hand holding' skill that Erin was teaching Lana."

Taking a Dip with the fur seals

These programs make great gifts for any animal lover—like Billy. "My girlfriend surprised me for my 32nd birthday with Take a Dip with Lana. She learned about it from a friend who had also done the Take a Dip program," Billy explained. "What made it even more special is once we arrived at the Aquarium, we learned that just days before, it was also Lana's 32nd birthday!" These programs are also a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of the Aquarium as well as marine mammals in the wild.

A seal smooches a participant in our Take a Dip with a harbor seal program

Reservations are required for these special programs. Call 617-973-5206 to book your Take a Dip program to find out what the animals eat, discover their unique personalities, favorite toys and each seal's special skills. And you'll walk away with new appreciation for these amazing marine mammals and wonderful memories of a truly unique experience.


Playing with their food

It wasn't so long ago that Kitovi was learning how to eat fish after months of nursing her mom's milk. But just like human babies, eating solid food was a skill that took some practice. It was up to her mom, Ursula, to show her the ropes.

Here's a video of Ursula tossing her food about, ripping the fish into pieces while Kitovi follows her lead.

One indication that this was a teaching session was because of the type of fish being tossed: herring. Ursula usually doesn't give herring the time of day. But here she was throwing it about, mouthing it and showing some interest. The trainers know better. This was likely Ursula tolerating her least-favorite fish just to show Kit how to eat fish.
Oh, those eyes, Kitovi!

Kit is now eating fish like the fur seal she is. Look for her and the band of frisky youngsters in the marine mammal center! There's Leu, Flaherty, Chiidax, Zoe and Sierra. Of course, don't forget about the wise elders of the group: Isaac, Ursula and Roxie.


Happy Hump Day from Leu

It's Wednesday, the middle of the traditional work week known as Hump Day. Sometimes it can be difficult to get over the hump. Hang on, weekend is almost here!

Leu naps on his favorite enrichment item

To get you through the day, here's a picture of Leu—our rescued fur seal—napping on his favorite enrichment item. It's a half barrel textured with brushes and hoses and floor mat material. You can also call it a hump. Enrichment toys and activities are a great way to keep our marine mammals' brains and bodies active. Of course, here it's also providing a cozy place to rest. Whatever works for you, buddy!


Happy Tuesday from Kit

We thought this picture of our Northern fur seal pup, Kit, would make your day.

A whole handful of cute

Kitovi, or Kit as we like to call her, was born here at the Aquarium last August. She's been learning a lot from her mom Ursula and still every bit as cute as her newborn pictures. While she's more petite than fellow fur seal pup Chiidax, she's certainly able to hold her own among the rough-and-tumble crowd.

Come visit the marine mammal center and see if you can spot this endearing little lady among the boisterous crew of fur seals and sea lions!


Chiidax joins the fray

It's official. Our newest Northern fur seal pup is ticking up the energy level at the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center. After spending some time behind the scenes for quiet introductions to his new neighbors, Chiidax is now exploring the main exhibit. And that means lots more splashing and playing and jousting and bluffing and lots of fun to watch! (Seriously, come see! Buy your timed ticket online.)

Chiidax is a seal with a lot of spunk.

Chiidax first padded into the exhibit alongside his buddy Kit on a snowy afternoon last month. All the trainers were excited to see how he would react.

Chiidax (left) is much chunkier than Kit (right)

Since Chiidax was dropped off at a rescue facility in Alaska last year, he'd only been swimming in small indoor pools. This was the first time he'd seen such a large swimming space! Kit plunged right into the pool, but Chiidax wasn't so sure. Instead, he loped about the deck, inspecting the new sights and smells and interacting with people through the glass.

Aquarium staff member Tom Doan was one of the first to greet Chiidax through the glass

Left: Chiidax sniffs Jenny's hat (She'll be lecturing about caring for the marine mammals on May 13!)
Right: Kathy tries to entice Chiidax to explore more of the exhibit. Nope.

But since that first, cautious shimmy into the new exhibit, Chiidax has found his stride...er, his slide! Look for him jousting, romping, swimming and (sometimes) snoozing with our young fur seals—Leu, Flaherty and Kit

The marine mammal center is buzzing with the energy of these youngsters. This is some activity you just have to see to believe! Come visit the Aquarium this April school vacation and meet the fur seals and sea lions at the New England Aquarium. Buy your timed ticket online.


The Zen of Grooming

When you have two young fur seal pups and their boisterous friends to contend with, sometimes you need a little moment of relaxation. The marine mammal staff caught Ursula in the fur seal's version of the lotus pose this week. She looks quite peaceful, no?

This mama is actually grooming her beautiful fur coat in this picture. See how her hind flipper is stretched over her shoulder? She is rubbing her fur with the underside of her flipper. On the top of  a Northern fur seal's rear flippers rear flippers are toe nails that are able to dig in and comb the fur or just give a good scratch. Sometimes the fur seals might scratch their backs on a rock or rub their bellies with a front flipper. Whew, grooming is a lot of hard work.

As we've mentioned before, fur seals rely on their fur to keep them warm when they're hunting in the cold waters of Northern Pacific Ocean (or spending winters in Boston). They have more hairs in a square inch than 3 or 4 people have on their heads—and we're not talking about your bald uncles, either. Unlike sea lions or harbor seals that have a cozy layer of blubber, fur seals rely on fur stay warm.

Ooh, that's the spot!

Fur seals were commercially hunted for their pelts until the practice was banned in 1966. The population has continued to decline since then. The reasons for the decline in fur seal populations are unclear, but possible factors include overfishing, entanglement in fishing gear, climate change and pollution.

The New England Aquarium is one of only a few zoos or aquariums where you can see this beautiful species, and the seals are part of a special breeding program. Both Flaherty and Kitovi were born here! We've also taken in rescued pups—Leu and Chiidax—that were abandoned or injured as youngsters and wouldn't have been able to survive in the wild.

Consider these links your intro to the whole gang of Northern fur seals and California sea lions at the marine mammal center, but you really should pop by to say hi yourself! Click on the links below to see what kind of antics these animals are up to in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center:


Get a harbor seal's-eye view

Chacoda, here, is giving us the chance to see what the harbor seals see during a training session. Not only can we see the tunnels and toys underwater in the exhibit, but you can also see yourselves—the visitors—through the glass!

Lead marine mammal trainer Paul Bradley has been working with Chacoda, or Chuck, for many years. The pair have a strong connection, and Paul has taught him some impressive behaviors.

Paul and Chacoda, or Chuck

You may recall that Paul trained Chuck to wear a simple harness across his back and over his flippers several years ago. That harness was fitted with a camera back in 2008 and our very own "crittercam" was born.

Paul adjusts the new GoPro camera on Chuck's harness

Fast-forward to 2014 and the advancements in underwater camera technology have come a long way. The harness is fitted with a tiny GoPro camera today, which returns crisp video and exciting perspectives of the exhibit. And if you liked this video, wait until you see the one we have up our sleeves. Chacoda was wearing the harness when he was showing his ability to leap out of the water and spin! Stay tuned for that one.

Check out these links to learn more about the harbors seals:

Come by the Aquarium this weekend and see if the seals want to interact through the glass. Want to get even closer to a seal? Like, in the exhibit next to a seal? Consider our Meet and Greet a Seal programs with the fur and harbor seals! Get a front-row seat as a trainer teaches new skills, feel the seal's belly fur, maybe even get a kiss.


Olympic dreams

Many of us find ourselves glued to the events in Sochi right now. It's inspiring to see lithe athletes in their prime, pushing the limits of artistry and gravity. After all, Fitness Friday is a highlight of our week here at the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center. So with the Olympics on our minds, it's not hard to imagine the seals and sea lions in similar acrobatic endeavors.

Zoe practices skeleton

The sea lions and fur seals have lots of toys available to them for enrichment purposes. Sometimes we put jello in these big dishes, sometimes a sea lion squeezes herself into one. We thought Zoe looked like a skeleton slider (minus the icy track and break-neck speeds)!

Leu finds a missing Olympic ring

Meanwhile, Leu, our rescued Northern fur seal, found a missing Olympic ring. He found it a nice place for a mid-play nap.

Come visit these animals when they're up to their Olympic antics in the main exhibit! Whether it's snowy or sunny, these animals are right at home in the marine mammal center. Get front row seats to watch these clever marine animals slide, splash and interact with their trainers. (Psst...save time and buy your tickets online!)

Find out other ways our seals and sea lions stay active (and rested):
The fur seal pups—Kit and Chiidax—have fun on a snow day


Kitovi and Chiidax have a snow day

With fur as thick as a Northern fur seal, near-zero temperatures and snow storms pose no problem for the Northern fur seals at the New England Aquarium. In fact, they can be quite fun.

Kitovi and Chiidax, our newest additions to the Aquarium's Northern fur seal colony, are currently behind the scenes, but this did not stop these two 6 month old seals from enjoying their very own snow day! While humans everywhere stayed home to brave the storm, these two babies, especially Chiidax, discovered how much fun piles of frosty flakes can be.


Chiidax, a rescued Northern fur seal from Alaska, has grown quite a bit since arriving at the Aquarium a couple months ago—you can hardly recognize him!

Kitovi and Chiidax
Watch how Kitovi and Chiidax play in the snow.  At first they don’t quite know what to make of the giant pile of snow, but they quickly figure out that it’s fun new toy.

Kitovi and Chiidax are not the only seals to enjoy a good snowy romp, check out some of the antics of Leu and Ursula.

Stay warm everyone!