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Georgie the Grey Seal Moves to Brookfield Zoo

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: November 19, 2020 1:25 pm

brookfield zoo grey seal

Georgie, a 7-year-old grey seal, recently arrived at Brookfield Zoo

Photo Credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, USA has welcomed a new grey seal to join their colony, the largest of any accredited zoo in the United States.

Georgette (nicknamed ‘Georgie’) made the move from Detroit Zoo to Brookfield on October 21st, 2020. She had been a resident of Detroit since 2013.

brookfield zoo grey seal

Georgie, a 7-year-old grey seal, with Mairim Martinez, a senior animal care specialist at Brookfield Zoo, during a husbandry training session. 

Photo Credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

Georgie is estimated to be 7 years old. She was found at only a couple of months old stranded on an island in Georgetown, Maine which is located at the mouth of the Kennebec River and Gulf of Maine in the Atlantic Ocean. She was found to have birth defects in both eyes and is blind in her left eye and functionally blind in the right eye.

This led to her being deemed by authorities at the National Marine Fisheries Service as unreleasable. She was then placed at Detroit Zoo where she could be cared for, for life.

On her arrival at Brookfield Zoo the veterinary team performed an examination of her eye under anesthesia. This found abnormal development of visual pathways in the brain due to vision deprivation shortly after birth which means Georgie displays a wandering nystagmus, a condition that results in rhythmic, regular movements of her eyes.

brookfield zoo grey seal

Georgie, a 7-year-old grey seal, recently arrived at Brookfield Zoo

Photo Credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

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Despite her vision problems Georgie is said to be well acclimated to her new home. Staff at Brookfield Zoo have provided a forever home to many similar seals over the years so are well experienced.

Most animals which are trained at Brookfield Zoo use visual cues from their keepers to know what to do. Keepers use verbal, audible and tactile cues with Georgie so she can still participate.

“Since Georgie has been blind her entire life, this is all she knows, and she has adapted very well to life in human care,” said Rita Stacey, curator of marine mammals for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages the zoo. “With her move to Brookfield Zoo, Georgie hasn’t skipped a beat. She is an outgoing and curious seal and spends time exploring her new habitat and getting to know her new caretakers.”

As she is settling in at the zoo Georgie has also been meeting her new enclosure mates. One of these is a reuniting of two old friends with Kiinaq, a 19 year old grey seal having previously lived with George at Detroit Zoo. These two are being paired on a recommendation from the association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Grey Seal Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative population management and conservation program for select species in accredited North American zoos and aquariums. It aims to keep genetic diversity in the captive population of grey seals.

brookfield zoo grey seal

Georgie, a 7-year-old grey seal, with Mairim Martinez, a senior animal care specialist at Brookfield Zoo, during a husbandry training session. 

Photo Credit: Jim Schulz/Chicago Zoological Society

Eventually Georgie will also meet the zoo’s other residents seals Tasha and Lily, who are both 16 years old, and Peanut and Celia, 9 month-old pups.

Currently only 24 grey seals live in 9 accredited zoos and aquariums in the United States. With 6 of these at Brookfield Zoo they have the largest colony.

Learn more about Brookfield Zoo on their website – Brookfield Zoo

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