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‘Long-term well-being’

Memorial developing retirement plan for Ocean Sciences Centre seals

Campus and Community

By Kelly Foss

Memorial University is developing a retirement plan for the Ocean Sciences Centre seals, with the best interest of the animals in mind.

A closeup of a seal's face in a tank of icy water. It's whiskers and face is lit up by sunshine.
Tyler, one of two seals living at the Ocean Sciences Centre in Logy Bay.
Photo: Submitted

Seals have been a fixture of the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC) since 1989, when Babette (1988–2021), a one-year-old female harp seal, was captured with her pup in the Magdalen Islands.

She was joined by Tyler, a male harp seal, captured as a white coat in 1990.

Babette’s offspring, all raised at the OSC, include Jamie (1994–2013), Millennium “Lenny” (2000–14) and Deane (2002).

Photo: Submitted

“These seals have been important members of the Memorial community and have a decades-long history of community engagement through the Department of Ocean Sciences’ public education program,” said Dr. Travis Fridgen, dean of Science. “Approximately 22,000 people visit the seal outdoor viewing platform each summer, and hundreds of students have gained employment and volunteer experience with the seals, giving them hands-on learning opportunities in the field of animal husbandry.”

Seals are social animals. Since Babette’s passing, there has been discussion around the need for a plan for the remaining pair.

“It’s important to us that we place them together.” — Dr. Jennifer Keyte

“We have been considering the long-term needs and well-being of the seals for some time now,” said Dr. Jennifer Keyte, university veterinarian and director of Animal Care and Veterinary Resources. “Tyler and Deane are so well-loved here, especially by their caretakers. It’s important to us that we place them together.”

Making a decision to relocate the seals will be a difficult one, but Dr. Fridgen says the goal is to determine the best plan for a humane, enriched and social environment for their future.

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