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Aquarium of Niagara welcomes three new, exceptional marine mammals

by jmaloni

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Thu, Jul 16th 2015 11:55 am
Trainer Hallie Schultz of the Aquarium of Niagara and Jill Burbank of the Indianapolis Zoo work with Pepper.
Trainer Hallie Schultz of the Aquarium of Niagara and Jill Burbank of the Indianapolis Zoo work with Pepper.

The Aquarium of Niagara has three new marine mammals, and each one has a unique and compelling story that will resonate with guests.

Mia and Isabel's Story

Mia is a 6-year-old California sea lion rescued in 2014 by the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, California. Mia was found malnourished and treated for pneumonia. While going through critical care at the Marine Mammal Center, Mia gave birth to a healthy pup, Isabel, in June 2014.

Because of the ongoing care provided by the Marine Mammal Care Center, Mia was eventually able to care for Isabel. But both Mia and Isabel were deemed non-releasable by the National Marine Fisheries, because of their mutual dependence on human care. In May, Mia and Isabel arrived at the Aquarium of Niagara, where both continue to receive care, attention and love from staff.

"We look forward to integrating Mia and Isabel into our training program, where they will play a significant role in educating our public about the aquarium's conservation goals, as well as the capabilities and behavior of California sea lions," said Gary Siddall, deputy director and head trainer.

Gary Siddall with Isabel 

Siddall with Isabel

Pepper's Chronicle

Pepper is a gray seal found stranded in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in April 2007 after a violent nor'easter. She was just 7 months old when her body was tossed against a jetty, which broke a vertebra in her back that left her hind flippers paralyzed.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, New Jersey, nursed her back to health, but she could not be released back into the wild because of her limited mobility.

Later that same year, Pepper was transferred to the Indianapolis Zoo, where she underwent multiple surgeries to amputate her unusable hind flippers.

Pepper arrived at the Aquarium of Niagara July 13 and was introduced to the four other seals. She is adjusting well in her new home.

"I'm so happy that, after all the time we spent nursing Pepper and rehabilitating her to swim again, that she found a great home at the aquarium, where I know she'll be cherished," said Jill Burbank, senior keeper at the Indianapolis Zoo.

"Here's an interesting tidbit about gray seals: Their genus scientific name is Halichoerus grypus, and that means hooked-nosed sea pig. ... That's a good way to differentiate gray seals from other seal species," Siddall added. "The gray seal actually neared extinction in the 1980s, because they were hunted for oil, meat and skins. Fortunately, Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act, preventing the harming of seals.

"Pepper is an important reminder of our aquarium's conservation efforts."

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