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The Aquarium is home to nine non-releasable and rescued marine mammals. We are proud to provide a second chance at life for these individuals who would not be able to survive on their own out in the ocean. At the Aquarium, you’ll find three different species of pinnipeds, the group of flipper-footed marine mammals that includes seals, sea lions, and walruses.
California sea lions are highly social animals that spend much of their time together. They all have unique personalities; some are dominant, and some are timid, but when one gets excited, they’re all likely to join in (and boy, can they bark!).
These animals are fast, agile, and athletic, and they can demonstrate impressive high-energy behaviors. You can distinguish them from their fellow pinnipeds, seals, by their solid brown coloring, ear flaps, and large flippers that they can rotate under their bodies, allowing them to walk or even run on land. In the water, sea lions move forward by pulling themselves through the water with their front flippers (like our penguins).
Rescued: August 9, 2009 (final rescue), Marine Mammal Center
Why: Approaching humans for food
Arie was rescued and released three times before she was deemed non-releasable. Arie and Kiah came to the Aquarium of Niagara together!
Born: July 6, 2012, SeaWorld San Antonio
Copper is our largest sea lion and loves to interact with people in the windows!
Born: June 24, 2014, Marine Mammal Care Center
Isabel is our smallest sea lion and is very energetic. She’s also Mia’s daughter!
Rescued: June 17, 2014, Marine Mammal Care Center
Why: Severely malnourished, suffering from pneumonia and seizures
Mia surprised everyone at the Marine Mammal Care Center by giving birth to a pup just a week after being rescued! Her daughter, Isabel, also lives at the Aquarium.
The Aquarium is home to two species of seals, harbor seals and grey seals. These seals are known as “earless” because they don’t have ear flaps like their sea lion cousins.
You may notice that seals move differently than sea lions. On land, seals look like caterpillars, plopping along in a motion known as “gallumping.” This is because they don’t have rotating hip bones, so they’re unable to tuck their flippers underneath them to walk on all fours. In the water, seals swim by moving their rear flippers from side to side like a fish.
Unlike social sea lions, seals tend to enjoy their independence, even when they’re in groups.
Grey Seals vs Harbor Seals
Can you tell our seals apart based on their species? Stryker and Lumiere are harbor seals, with short, stubby faces. Their fur can be a range of different colors with small, pebble-like spots.
Della and Medusa are grey seals. They are significantly larger than harbor seals and have long, slender heads (they are actually nicknamed “horsehead seals”). Like their name implies, they are mostly grey with large splotches on their undersides.
Rescued: April 6, 2017, Pacific Marine Mammal Center
Why: Dehydrated and malnourished
Lumiere exhibited abnormal eating behaviors and had difficulty swallowing fish. Since arriving at the Aquarium, he has learned to eat with ease!
Rescued: April 9, 2017, Marine Mammal Stranding Center
Where: New Jersey
Why: Struck by a boat that severed his hind flipper
Stryker’s injury was so severe that his hind flipper had to be amputated. He was deemed non-releasable because he was not able to swim against strong currents.
Rescued: September 4, 1990, Marine Mammal Stranding Center
Why: Was not afraid of human interaction and was following ferries, putting her at risk of conflicts with fishermen, entanglement, or boat strikes
Della is blind from cataracts; she works with her trainers using verbal and tactile cues.
Rescued: March 25, 2016, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research & Conservation
Where: Long Island
Why: Blind from bilateral cataracts
Medusa loves playing under the waterfall in Rescue Harbor! Medusa received cataract removal surgery in 2017 to help keep her eyes as healthy as possible.
Step into the seal exhibit for an up-close look at a feeding and training session.