No, Leu and Flaherty aren’t prepping to run their first 5k—but, like many of the animals at the Seattle Aquarium, they regularly participate in training that benefits them in a variety of ways. We’ll tell you all about it—but first, some background on the two northern fur seals in our care, who we fondly refer to as “the boys.”
In May 2012, Leu was found stranded on a beach under a kelp bed in Santa Barbara, CA; his estimated age at the time was 11 months. Poor Leu was emaciated, missing patches of his guard hairs and blind in his right eye. He was deemed non-releasable by the National Marine Fisheries Service and went to live at the New England Aquarium until early 2015, when he moved to the Seattle Aquarium. He was named for the Aleutian Islands of Alaska (A-LEU-tian, get it?), the waters of which are within the natural range of wild northern fur seals. He currently weighs in at 250 pounds.
Flaherty was born at the New England Aquarium in 2012 and spent his early years there until joining the Seattle Aquarium in 2015. His father was Isaac, who was born here at the Seattle Aquarium in 2000. Flaherty was named for the then-CEO of the New England Aquarium, Walter Flaherty. He’s the bigger of “the boys,” currently tipping the scale at 300 pounds.
THE BENEFITS OF TRAINING
Training enhances the quality of life for animals in our care in a variety of ways:
- Animal health: Training helps the fur seals learn to trust and cooperate with us in their own health care while our expert staff collect blood samples, record weights, take measurements, conduct ultrasounds and more.
- Mental stimulation: Training allows agency and provides choices to positively affect the animals’ psychological well-being.
- Physical exercise: Additional activity through training helps keep the animals in good physical health.
- Animal management: To support needs, such as shifting the fur seals from one habitat to another or separating them from other animals when needed (such as when a female gives birth, a young animal needs to be weaned, or a new animal is getting acclimated to the Aquarium).
- Research: Training provides opportunities to assist research in gaining knowledge of the species’ physiology and behavior, which in turn can help us provide the best care possible.
- Public education: Says our Director of Life Sciences Grant Abel, “Demonstrating the natural adaptations and behavior of fur seals, training can serve as the foundation for conservation education. In so doing, training is an important component of the Aquarium’s mission: Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment.”