MERR-rescued grey seal pup rehabilitating at National Aquarium

March 3, 2021

The National Aquarium in Baltimore is currently caring for a grey seal pup rescued from Cape Henlopen State Park and estimated to be less than 1 month old.

The new rescue patient has been nicknamed Eloise, in keeping with the naming theme of famous storybook characters.

Eloise the seal was rescued Feb. 12, in coordination with the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute. After being triaged at the MERR facility in Lewes, Eloise was transported to the National Aquarium’s Animal Care and Rescue Center Feb. 14. Upon arrival for rehabilitation, the aquarium’s Animal Health and Rescue teams determined Eloise was malnourished with a few lacerations on her neck. She was initially hydrated and nourished through an oral feeding tube, but as the team continued to work with her, she quickly progressed to the next stage in her rehabilitation.

Due to Eloise’s young age, she is still considered a maternally dependent pup, meaning that if she were in her natural habitat, she would be relying on her mother for milk. Therefore, her rehabilitation is focused on teaching her how to eat fish, a skill she normally would learn from her mother. Eloise has been far exceeding expectations by eating fish on her own. She also has full-time pool access for swimming and other enrichment activities.

In 2020, the Animal Health and Rescue teams cared for their first maternally dependent seal, Pippi Longstocking, who was successfully rehabilitated and released after nine months. Eloise weighs just 28 pounds and will need to double her weight before becoming eligible for release.

“Pippi and Eloise are unique cases for the Mid-Atlantic because they have stranded when they are still young enough to be maternally dependent,” said Jennifer Dittmar, director of animal rescue at the National Aquarium. “There could be many reasons for this to be happening, including storms, a human interaction that scared off the mom, maternal instincts that haven’t kicked in or birthing complications.”

To keep up with Eloise’s journey, follow the National Aquarium social channels on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

The National Aquarium's Animal Rescue program is responsible for responding to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles along the 3,190 miles of Maryland coast. It works with stranding partners through the Greater Atlantic Region Stranding Network to help respond, rescue and release animals year-round.

The National Aquarium is a nonprofit organization focused on changing the way humanity cares for its ocean planet. What began over 35 years ago as a visitor attraction has evolved into a conservation organization that operates a world-class aquarium. Driven by its mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, and through unparalleled exhibits, science-based education programs and hands-on field initiatives, the National Aquarium is creating a new community of hopeful conservationists.

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