Four months ago, on April 26, 2012, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, had its first seal pup ever born at the facility. The pup, a harbor seal, weight about 20 pounds at birth but weighed a whopping 50 pounds at her debut today. Several members of the press waited with baited breath for her release into the Seal and Sea Lion exhibit. Unceremoniously, the new baby, named “Bixby” after the founding father of Long Beach, was brought to the exhibit in a small animal crate – the type you use to transfer dogs.
When the door to the crate opened, Bixby seemed hesitant; you could almost see her asking “where am I?” Soon she was on the landing, and without further ado hit the water. Other seals – including mom and dad, Shelby and Troy – and the sea lions that also live in the exhibit soon gave chase. Photographers gathered in the underground tunnel next to the tank where it felt like a tennis match as Bixby swam back and forth between the front and back tanks. Aquarium biologists who cared for her as part of the preparation for joining the other animals inside the Seal & Sea Lion Habitat were on hand, tracking Bixby’s every move.
(More pictures after the jump)
At her first feeding in the exhibit, Bixby did not come up on shore to feed. However, the other seals and sea lions beached themselves for a breakfast snack. While watching the first feeding, members of the public received a quick lesson on the importance of recycling fishing lines, from AOP’s John Gonzalez. It is estimated that ingestion of and entanglement in marine debris, including abandoned fishing line, causes the deaths of more than one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals each year. This debris can also cause damage to boat propellers and clog seawater intakes, causing costly engine damage and becoming a safety hazard. AOP has REEL Recycling Display throughout Long Beach where used or broken fishing lines can be recycled.
Daddy, Troy, the Aquarium’s only male harbor seal, came to the Aquarium in 2007. Mom, Shelby, on the other hand, has been at AOP since 1998. Female harbor seals typically give birth to young starting at four to five years of age. Shelby is sixteen years old, and this is her first pup. The name Bixby was suggested by City of Long Beach employee Marina Ohlson Smorick, who was on hand with her family at Bixby’s release, in honor of historical figure Jotham Bixby who is known as “The Father of Long Beach.”
Written and Photographed by Paula Lauren Gibson/AfroPix
Portrait of Jotham Bixby, President of the Bixby Land Company, Long Beach, [s.d.]
The Aquarium is open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily and until 9 p.m. during Discounted Late Nights (seal viewing is best during daylight hours). Aquarium admission is $25.95 adults 12+, $22.95 seniors 62+, $14.95 per child (ages 3-11), and free to Aquarium members and children under age three. Admission during Discounted Late Nights is $14.95 per person from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. (on August 22-24, 26-29, and September 1-2, 2012). The Aquarium is located at 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA90802. The Aquarium of the Pacific, a nonprofit institution, is dedicated to creating and building natural capital (nature and its resources) by building social capital (relationships between and among people). Beyond its animal exhibits, the Aquarium offers educational programs for people of all ages from hands-on activities to lectures by leading scientists. It is a community gathering place where diverse cultures and the arts are celebrated and a place where important topics facing our planet and our ocean are explored by scientists, policy-makers and stakeholders in the search for sustainable solutions. For more information, the public can visit www.aquariumofpacific.org or call 562-590-3100.