The Maritime Aquarium harbor seal exhibit is easily the most loved, and most popular attraction. Seven seals (all female) call the aquarium home: Rasal, Orange, Leilia, Ariel, Polly, Susie, and Susie’s daughter, Tillie.
I have difficulty identifying some of the seals, but I can always spot Susie, because of her ivory-colored fur, milky white eyes (caused by the corneal scarring over her eyes), and dominance over the other seals.
Harbor seals tend live about 20 years in the wild, but most of our girls are well into their 30’s. Susie’s supremacy over the group is due to her position as the eldest member. At 39, Susie is the third oldest seal in captivity in the world, and this Thursday we are celebrating her 40th birthday!
Though she’s slowed down in her geriatric state, Susie had quite an interesting life in her youth. She was found on the shores of Sable Island, Nova Scotia, in 1973, less than a month old and in need of emergency care. After Maritime employee Jack Schneider arraigned for her rescue, she was brought to the Mystic Aquarium and nursed back to health.
While in Mystic, Susie had her first of two pups, Tillie in 1986. Two years after Tillie’s birth, both mom and pup were moved to the newly opened Maritime Aquarium, and have enjoyed their role as lifelong Connecticut residents.
Susie, resilient lady that she is, has survived several hurricanes and tropical storms, a frighteningly funny deer encounter, and the loss of her second pup, Eve. Don’t feel too bad for this girl, though. In her golden years, Susie has enjoyed the cushy “hotel life” of living at an aquarium and snacks on her favorite fish, herring at least three times a day, and has formed special bonds with the others seals, aquarists, and guests that return to see her each year.
So, if you’re in the CT area, stop by the aquarium at 11:45am on Thursday to sing Happy Birthday to our new quadragenarian girl!