Rescued Seal Featured in New Mystic Aquarium Exhibit

Her second chance at life is going swimmingly.

Mystic Aquairum’s newest star – Ziggy Star, that is – has overcome some incredible odds since she was found stranded on a California beach in April 2013.

“She was very emaciated and near death,” explained Laurie Macha, curator of mammals and birds for Mystic Aquarium. “She couldn’t lift her head up off the ground.”

During months of rehabilitation at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, veterinarians determined Ziggy, a Northern Fur Seal, had a serious neurological disorder affecting her vision and movement. Her symptoms made it highly unlikely she’d ever be able to forage for food and survive in the wild, so a return trip to sea was ruled out.

Instead, Ziggy needed a new forever home with human care. But with less than a dozen Northern Fur Seals in aquariums nationwide, she couldn’t go just anywhere.

That’s when the fur seal experts at Mystic Aquarium came to the rescue.

Macha traveled to California to bond with Ziggy before embarking on a 3,000 mile journey together to the east coast in March. After an initial quarantine, she was slowly introduced to other marine mammals at the aquarium, but kept from public view.

Now the time has come for Ziggy to meet her adoring public as the newest addition the Pacific Northwest exhibit. She’ll be making her debut alongside her newest friend – Mystic’s other Northern Fur Seal, Sam.

“He's quite smitten with her,” Macha smiled. “He really likes her, and keeps all the other Harbor Seals away from her. It’s really nice to see them getting along and just being together.”

But life for Ziggy and Sam’s wild counterparts is becoming a struggle for survival. Fur seals are considered a depleted species. That’s where Mystic Aquarium hopes Ziggy can help, by teaching the public about conservation – and maybe a thing or two about life.

“Ziggy's lesson is perseverance,” said Macha. “Sometimes it's really difficult in life. I think by providing the right encouragement and the right support, we can help anyone do anything.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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