E-Newsletter Articles

July 2013

Harbor seal breeding collaboration results in two pups

Q's harbor seal pups at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Q is a dad! Two charming new harbor seal pups, a male and a female, are the happy result of a breeding collaboration between the Seattle Aquarium and the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The pups were both born in June, shortly after Q returned to the Aquarium—along with Barney and Siku—to take up residence in our beautiful new harbor seal exhibit.

How and why did the collaboration take place? Breeding recommendations are made based on genetic data from studbooks that are kept by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), of which the Seattle Aquarium is an accredited member. Our collaboration with the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium began in April of 2012, when we sent Q to Tacoma and received Siku in return. Q, at 14, was at a prime age for breeding and soon impregnated two females. Since Barney is an older harbor seal (he’s 27!) and not as likely to breed, hopes were less high that Siku's relocation here would result in a pregnancy. However, the breeding collaboration continues with the return of Siku and both males to the Seattle Aquarium—the hope is that a pregnancy could result now that Siku is with Q, a proven male.

And now for the question on everyone’s minds: will the Aquarium get one of the new pups? Yes! “The agreement dictates that each facility gets one pup,” says Curator of Mammals and Birds Traci Belting. It hasn’t been determined which pup the Aquarium will get—or when it will arrive. Both are still young and dependent on their mothers for milk. We’ll be sure to keep you updated with news as it develops. And, in the meantime, fundraising for our harbor seal exhibit continues. If you’ve already donated, thank you so much for your support! And if you haven’t, it’s not too late for you and your family to be part of this great new exhibit—click here to contribute.

Anabel Baker: young ambassador for our marine environment

Anabel Baker

Guests at this year’s Splash! fundraising gala were inspired by the eloquent words of Anabel Baker, a Seattle-area 5th grader who developed a deep appreciation for Puget Sound, as well as the Seattle Aquarium, at a very young age. Below, she shares some thoughts on marine conservation and the Aquarium’s mission.

Q: What do you do in your own life to help take care of the marine environment?
A: I conserve the marine environment in my everyday life in a variety of ways. I use reusable containers for my lunches; walk to my karate lessons; use rain barrels for watering (and never use pesticides or fertilizers in our yard), and properly dispose of waste and garbage. Plus, I’m always learning more about other things I can do.

Q: What can the Seattle Aquarium do to inspire more people like you—kids as well as adults—to care for our marine environment?
A: The Aquarium has many good ways to do this already! There a couple of things I think work especially well, like having volunteers on hand to talk to people. I think learning from each other helps it stick. The Marine Summer Camps are great—I learned a lot from them. And the Wonder Cart and special displays in the Aquarium have so much great info. All of these help you learn, learn, learn! The more you know, the more you understand, and the more you care!

Q: How did you learn so much about marine animals?
A: I love marine animals! This drove me to learn a lot, and I did that by asking questions, partaking in Aquarium activities, and reading my orca cards—they showed me what makes each orca unique.

Q: What would you tell someone who has never visited the Aquarium before?
A: I would say, “Look in all the nooks and crannies. Whatever you do, don’t just walk past an exhibit without observing the creatures in it for a while!”

New necropsy room under construction

Rockfish in the Window on Washington Waters exhibit

Important work is going on behind the scenes at the Seattle Aquarium: we’re constructing a necropsy room. And what does “necropsy” mean? Explains Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Lesanna Lahner, “’Necros’ means ‘dead body, and ‘opsis’ means ‘look at’…a necropsy is an autopsy performed on an animal.”

The establishment of a dedicated necropsy room was one of the requirements of the Aquarium’s recent re-accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). “The AZA’s guidelines recommend a separate necropsy room, and that all animal mortalities get necropsied,” notes Lesanna. The Aquarium has long made a practice of performing necropsies: currently, bird and mammal procedures are completed at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium; fish procedures take place in our existing space.

Although it sounds ironic, necropsies allow us to take even better care of the animals in our collection. “We can take a look at their health in a way that isn’t possible, unfortunately, when they’re still alive,” says Lesanna. “Necropsies help us get closer to the cause of death, understand if there were underlying causes of disease, and improve the care of living animals.” For example, fish health tends to be less about the individual animal and more about the group. “It’s called herd health,” says Lesanna. “And if we have a mortality in a fish exhibit and some of the other fish don’t look great, we can do a complete workup to better understand what’s going on and address the problem effectively.”

Interested donors are welcome to attend a necropsy. “It’s a great learning experience—a bit like ‘Critter CSI,’” says Lesanna. If you’d like to find out about attending a future necropsy, contact Christie Cotterill by email or (206) 838-3907.

Save the date for Otter Open

Otter Open Golf Classic 2013

Mark your calendars now to join us for the Otter Open Golf Classic! This year’s event will return to the beautiful Broadmoor Golf Club and take place on Monday, September 23. Co-chaired by J. Brian Hill, Steve Moore and Scott Trethewey, the Otter Open will feature auctions, games, refreshments and prizes—along with the always-festive golf tournament.

Sponsorships and foursomes are available; contact Erin Ashley by email or (206) 838-3914 for details. Invitations are forthcoming; in the meantime, visit our Otter Open page for more information.

A message from our President & CEO

Bob Davidson

In our March issue, we described our newly formed Community Engagement group, which is charged with enhancing and developing methods to reach the overall Puget Sound community as well as other key communities within our larger Aquarium audience. The group has been quite busy since then:

  • Brought octopus activities to Katharine’s Place, a community partner that provides 25 units of low-income family housing in Seattle's Rainier Valley, with some units set aside for families with special needs.
  • Participated in a full day of activities at the 2013 Expanding Your Horizons Conference in Edmonds, where high school girls learn about science, technology, engineering and math from professional women in the field.
  • Led Aquarium tours—one in Mandarin!—for seniors from the Catholic Community Services Foster Grandparent program.
  • Partnered with the Seattle Public Library to bring giant Pacific octopus activities to three branch locations this summer.
  • Partnered with Outdoors for All to lead beach walks, Aquarium visits and salmon exploration classes for people with physical, developmental and sensory disabilities.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on the many ways we are working to bring our vital conservation message to all members of our community—including underserved and underrepresented audiences, as well as those with special needs.