Thursday, December 19, 2013

A New Year, A New Rescued Fur Seal Pup

For many of us as kids, we dreamt of holiday gifts coming from the North Pole via a mythical sled. Recently, New England Aquarium staff got  a real life variation of that with the dream gift of a rare, rescued Northern fur seal pup from Alaska via a FedEx cargo plane!

New England Aquarium/SharpShooter

New England Aquarium/SharpShooter

The Aquarium is pleased to announce the arrival of Chiidax (pronounced Chee-dacks), a lovable but feisty four-month old Northern fur seal pup. He will not be exhibit until later in January as he still has to go through a standard 30-day quarantine, but he has a story that might tug at your holiday heart strings.

New England Aquarium/SharpShooter

The 9.5 pound newborn bundle of fur was found during August in a box at the doorstep of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game offices on the remote Aleutian island of Sand Point (see Point A on map below) with a note attached stating that its mother must have died during childbirth. The male northern fur seal pup was underweight and dehydrated and was a rare find even in the Aleutians as that species nearest pupping islands were more than 200 miles away in the Pribilofs. Named Chiidax by the local Aleuts, it means “small, young animal” in their native language. Alaska Fish & Game officials arranged for the pup with enormous eyes and even bigger ears to be sent to the nearest rehab facility over 500 miles away at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward (see Point B), about 100 miles south of Anchorage. There, the little fellow regained his health and doubled in weight to 18 pounds.

See video of the young pup while in rehab via the Alaska Dispatch.


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The Alaskan rescue biologists were challenged to care for Chiidax as he was the first fur seal that they had ever taken in. With Chiidax being hand-raised by people and his birth area unknown, federal wildlife officials decided that he was not releasable back into the wild. Ironically, the people with some of the most experience raising northern fur seals were located 3000 miles away across the continent in one of America’s largest metropolitan areas. The marine mammal staff at Boston’s New England Aquarium several years ago had decided to start a breeding program for northern fur seals in the New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center. Northern fur seals populations had declined over the past several decades, and they could only be found in a handful of North American aquariums.

New England Aquarium/SharpShooter

To get Chiidax to Boston, the Aquarium sent veterinarian Julie Cavin and marine mammal trainer Belinda Brackett to Alaska to escort the pup on a 14 hour FedEx cargo flight from Anchorage to Indianapolis and eventually Hartford, CT. There, Aquarium staff transported the pup to its off-site animal care center in Quincy, MA, 10 miles south of Boston. Chiidax will spend a standard, 30 day quarantine period there before he is brought to a behind-the-scenes pool at the Aquarium. Then, he will first meet Kit, a female fur seal pup born at the Aquarium this past August that will undoubtedly become his same age playmate. They will later be joined by Flaherty, a male one year old also born in Boston and Leu (Lou), a two year old rescued in California. Chiidax will most likely go on public display with his mates sometime in January in the Aquarium’s spectacular, harbor-side seal exhibit that has truly become a fur seal playground.

Meet the fleet of frisky pups at the Marine Mammal Center!



4 comments:

  1. You guys are truly amazing with the work you are doing with seals. Keep up the good work!

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  2. Awesome! Eager to see him, and see him thrive.

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  3. Nancy, James and MorganJanuary 2, 2014 at 5:41 PM

    What a great story Welcome to Boston Chiidax; we are so excited to meet you!

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  4. *ARK ARK - Seal Clap*

    Translations .. Thank you for the new home !

    ReplyDelete

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