Shedd Aquarium

Rescued Sea Otter ‘Pup 719’ Finds New Home


A recognized leader in animal care and conservation, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium recently announced that it has welcomed a 10-week-old orphaned Southern Sea Otter pup (Enhydra lutris nereis) to the aquarium as part of a collaborative partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium – a leader in ocean conservation, and science and conservation of the threatened marine mammal species.

Now weighing about 11 pounds, the female pup arrived at Shedd on January 27 from Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, where she was estimated to be 4 weeks old. The pup is receiving care behind the scenes in Shedd’s Regenstein Sea Otter Nursery from a team of dedicated animal trainers and veterinarians. She is the third pup from the endangered Southern Sea Otter population to reside at Shedd. Known as “Pup 719” (which refers to the number of otters taken into Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Program since its inception in 1984) she is currently achieving critical milestones in her growth.



TR16-019Photo Credits: Images 1-11 (Monterey Bay Aquarium/ Tyson Rininger) ; Images 12,13 (Shedd Aquarium/ Brenna Hernandez)



Pup 719’s stranding is a vivid example of how our changing environment is impacting animal habitats on the west coast. Unusually high ocean temperatures associated with El Niño caused heavy storms in January, which may have been a factor in separating Pup 719 from her mother. Additionally, elevated ocean temperatures can be associated with a reduction in kelp cover, shrinking the habitat available to Sea Otters. The latest National Weather Service status for the current El Niño system ranks it among the three strongest episodes dating back to 1950. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted 2015 as the Earth’s warmest year on record.

“We might be facing record numbers of Southern Sea Otter strandings that may be associated with storms caused by El Niño, our role as stewards and caretakers for these animals is as critical as ever,” said Karl Mayer, animal care coordinator for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otter Program.

“There are limited options for stranded otters: reuniting with mother in the wild, rearing for release by a surrogate Sea Otter mother like the one of a kind program at Monterey Bay Aquarium or being placed in an AZA accredited zoo or aquarium. If those options are not available, pups may unfortunately have to be humanely euthanized,” said Tim Binder, executive vice president of animal care for Shedd. “Organizations like Monterey Bay Aquarium are doing critical work to try and reunite these species and when there are no other options – Shedd stands at the ready to assist in urgent animal care needs like providing a permanent home for Pup 719.”

As she acclimates to her new surroundings at Shedd, Pup 719 continues to achieve many important milestones which include eating solid foods such as shrimp and clams, foraging for food, grooming on her own and interacting with Shedd’s animal care team.

Continue reading "Rescued Sea Otter ‘Pup 719’ Finds New Home" »

Shedd’s Daring Dolphin Calf Gets a Name


What do you get a Dolphin calf for the holidays? A name!

After a full week of voting, Cetacean fans everywhere have spoken. The name for the newest member of Shedd Aquarium’s marine mammal family, a male Pacific White-Sided dolphin calf born on June 1, 2015, was revealed on December 16 during a live broadcast from the aquarium’s Secluded Bay habitat.

Nearly 3,500 votes were cast during the naming contest, and Makoa (Ma-ko-ah)—meaning ‘fearless’ in Hawaiian—was the clear winner over another exotic favorite, Kolohe (Ko-low-hey), meaning ‘rascal’.




Photo Credits: Brenna Hernandez / Video Credit: Sam Cejtin

 The six-month-old Makoa, who has nearly doubled in size since his birth and weighs a healthy 108 pounds, continues to achieve important milestones, such as bonding with mom Piquet, increasing in size, eating some whole fish, and interacting with trainers and fellow dolphins. As one of the most adventurous calves to have ever been born at Shedd, he has certainly lived up to his new name.

“Naming the Dolphin calf is Shedd’s way of welcoming him into the family, while also raising awareness about this fascinating open-water species that is extremely difficult to study in the wild,” said Tim Binder, executive vice president of animal care.

“With only four accredited North-American institutions caring for less than 20 Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, our understanding of this taxon is very limited, making any predictions regarding the resiliency of the species or disturbances in their native habitat very difficult. Observing the animals in human care increases our understanding of their biology, behavior and sensitivity to environmental change, allowing us to inform protection management strategies for those in the wild, as well as to provide better care for the animals in accredited zoos and aquariums.”

For more than 20 years, Shedd Aquarium has participated in collaborative efforts that help the scientific community better understand the hearing, acoustics, social behavior, reproductive physiology and immune system of Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, providing a window into this breathtaking species.

According to Binder, “Makoa will be an ambassador for Dolphins everywhere, helping the aquarium raise awareness about the importance of research and conservation, as well as furthering Shedd’s mission of connecting people to the living world, and inspiring them to make a difference.”

Continue reading "Shedd’s Daring Dolphin Calf Gets a Name" »

Meet Shedd Aquarium’s Latest Rescue ‘Pup’

1_Peach D75Q2320Meet Peach-- a 10-month-old Dachshund/Terrier mix that was born in the southern United States. Found tied to a dumpster and bearing the marks of neglect (as evidenced by the scar running the length of her back), she was placed in a nearby high-kill shelter.

Through the help of volunteers, Peach eventually found her way to The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago, Illinois. Once in the Chicago area, more good fortune was provided for the friendly dog. Officials at The Anti-Cruelty Society thought she was an excellent candidate for a special rescue and rehabilitation program at Shedd Aquarium

2_Peach 3U8A6279

3_Peach 3U8A6231

4_Peach D75Q2309Photo Credits: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez ; Video footage: Sam CejtinPeach is currently being integrated into Shedd Aquarium’s dog program. The focus for now is getting her acclimated to her new home and building a positive and trusting relationship with her trainers. As with all other animals, she will make progress in her training as her comfort level allows. Shedd’s animal care staff is confident that she will make a smooth transition to her new home. She is young and her socialization will begin immediately – both with trainers and other dogs.  

Since her arrival at Shedd Aquarium, Peach has been nothing but very sweet. She is already open to interacting with people, and she is very playful with the other dogs at the aquarium. According to Shedd tradition, Peach was named after a character in the popular animated feature, Finding Nemo.

Peach currently weighs a healthy 20 pounds, and she has a short black coat with a large white spot on her chest.

She is the seventh dog to be adopted by Shedd Aquarium from a Chicago-area shelter, since 2013, and one of four dogs currently at the aquarium; two other animals have since been adopted into loving homes. These animals connect guests to living world, highlighting the “Shedd Way” of training through positive reinforcement and demonstrating how individuals can build strong relationships with the animals in their lives.

Peach may eventually be included in the aquarium’s “One World” show, which focuses on the interconnectivity of the living world and the impact we have on our shared environments.

Just as Shedd rescues endangered Sea Otters, Rock Iguanas, Corals and other threatened species, guests can make a difference for animals by adopting pets from shelters. Each year, 3 million unwanted dogs just like Peach (and Shedd’s other rescue dogs: Marlin, Dory and Kobe) are euthanized; nearly 90 percent of those deaths could be avoided with the right training. Shedd Aquarium’s dogs are examples of the potentially great companions that are just waiting for the right owners at animal shelters around the country.

Continue reading "Meet Shedd Aquarium’s Latest Rescue ‘Pup’" »

Rockin’ New Penguin Chick at Shedd Aquarium

1_Rockhopper Penguin Chick 5

Shedd Aquarium welcomed a Rockhopper Penguin Chick on June 9, 2015. The chick hatched to parents Edward and Annie, following penguin-breeding season in March. The yet-to-be-named penguin weighed 57 grams at birth and came in at 200 grams at a recent weigh-in; full growth is expected after about two to three months. Until the aquarium decides on a name, the tiny bird is being referred to as “Chick #23”. 

2_Rockhopper Penguin Chick 1

3_Rockhopper Penguin Chick 2

4_Rockhopper Penguin Chick 3Photo Credit: Brenna Hernandez /Shedd Aquarium ; Video Credit: Sam Cejtin /Shedd Aquarium

Chick #23 has been attempting to preen its soft, down-like plumage, which is one milestone Shedd’s animal care team looks for to assess the growth of the bird. While there are no observable sex differences in Rockhopper Penguins, a genetic test after one year of age will determine whether the chick is a boy or a girl.

Guests can try to spot Chick #23 in Shedd’s Polar Play Zone, where it’s currently in its nest with its parents. It will be another month or so before the chick begins to wander on its own.

Shedd Aquarium houses two types of penguins in the Polar Play Zone exhibit: Rockhoppers (Eudyptes chrysocome) and Magellanics (Spheniscus magellanicus). The Rockhopper is the smaller, yet more eccentric penguin of the two breeds.

Rockhopper Penguins are listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Since 1991, Shedd has been part of a successful penguin breeding program and has contributed to a variety of global rescue efforts. Chick #23 is one of more than 30 Rockhopper Penguins currently at Shedd.

Continue reading "Rockin’ New Penguin Chick at Shedd Aquarium" »

Shedd’s ‘Pup 681’ Has New Name


On Friday, December 12, Shedd Aquarium, along with ABC’s Good Morning America, officially announced the name of its female rescued Southern Sea Otter pup, formerly known as ‘Pup 681’. Over 10,000 votes were tallied from the “Name the Sea Otter Pup” voting contest, which took place between Dec. 2 and Dec. 11, and the winning name is…Luna!



IMG_3298Photo Credits: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez ; Video Credits: Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin

The announcement was made on GMA and also during a special members-only event at Shedd Aquarium. During the event, Shedd’s animal care team announced the winning name and introduced the Sea Otter pup to the exhibit for the first time. The general public will have the opportunity to meet ‘Luna’ in person in Spring 2015 at the Regenstein Sea Otter habitat in the Abbott Oceanarium at Shedd.

Currently weighing in at 11 pounds, the pup is growing quickly and successfully reaching new milestones everyday including diving, foraging for food, grooming on her own and most recently the animal care team introduced four types of seafood to her diet.

The marine mammal team at Shedd provided name choices, which reflected geographic native habitats of Southern Sea Otters, a threatened species. The name Luna is derived from Half Moon Bay, the area close to where the pup was rescued. Shedd members had an exclusive opportunity to vote on their favorite name, making Luna the official Shedd member’s choice. 

Continue reading "Shedd’s ‘Pup 681’ Has New Name" »

Help Name Shedd’s Sea Otter ‘Pup 681’


Shedd Aquarium’s rescued Southern Sea Otter pup, which came to the aquarium as part of a collaborative partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium, is currently known as ‘Pup 681’. She has been swimming past significant milestones over the last few weeks and is growing quickly. Already double in size and weighing in at a little over 10 pounds, Pup 681 is now ready for a name! 



5C9A2204Photo Credits: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez ; Video Credits: Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin

Shedd is partnering up with ABC’s morning television show, “Good Morning America”, to name the female Sea Otter pup, through the “Name the Sea Otter Pup” voting contest.

“The entire organization celebrates Pup 681 as a meaningful way to educate our guests and have a better understanding of sea otters, which is critical to conserve and protect this species,” said Tim Binder, Vice President of Animal Collections for Shedd. “Over the past few weeks, she has won the hearts of many in Chicago and across the nation.  We’re excited to team up with a national organization, to connect millions of people with this species inspiring conservation for wildlife and the environment through the engaging process of selecting a name for our Sea Otter with everyone.”

“Good Morning America” invites viewers to get involved with the contest by casting their votes online, via a poll, found on the right side of their page, at on Yahoo. Participants can submit votes as often as they like until Thursday, Dec.11 at 3 p.m. EST. The final name will be revealed on Friday, Dec. 12.

The public will choose from five names, selected by Shedd’s marine mammal staff. Shedd has a history of naming animals that are rescued affiliated with the locations of which they were found. Names include: 

  • Cali  - To honor the California otter
  • Ellie  - Año Nuevo State Park is well known for its elephant seals, also Elkhorn Slough - an area that is right up the coast from Monterey that is home to many Sea Otters
  • Luna  - Derived from nearby Half Moon Bay
  • Poppy  - California State Flower
  • Aña or Anya  - Derived from Año Nuevo State Park

Continue reading "Help Name Shedd’s Sea Otter ‘Pup 681’" »

Shedd, Monterey Bay Aquariums to Host Live Online Event with Sea Otter Pup 681


On Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 12 p.m. CT, Shedd Aquarium and Monterey Bay Aquarium will host a Google Hangout On Air session with the public to share the latest progress and information on rescued Sea Otter Pup 681.



5C9A0810Photo Credits: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez ; Video Credits: Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin

Moderated by legendary journalist and aquarium supporter, Bill Kurtis, the live, online event will feature a behind-the-scenes look at the growing Sea Otter pup and first-hand accounts from Shedd and Monterey Bay experts involved in her rescue and continual, round-the-clock care.

Registration for the Google Hangout On Air session can be found at the following: 

Poolside with Sea Otter Pup 681


Follow the conversation at #puphangout


More info and amazing pics, below the fold!

Continue reading "Shedd, Monterey Bay Aquariums to Host Live Online Event with Sea Otter Pup 681" »

Shedd Aquarium Staff Foster Sea Otter Pup

Shedd_Sea Otter Pup_13

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium recently announced that it had welcomed a five-week old orphaned Southern Sea Otter pup from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Shedd_Sea Otter Pup_1

Shedd_Sea Otter Pup_2

Shedd_Sea Otter Pup_4Photo Credits: Shedd Aquarium / Brenna Hernandez

The female pup arrived at Shedd on October 28th from Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, where she spent the first four weeks of her life being stabilized. The pup has been doing well since her arrival, receiving continual care behind the scenes of Shedd’s Abbott Oceanarium, and she currently weighs in at just under 6 pounds and 22.6 inches long. She is the second pup from the threatened Southern Sea Otter population to reside at Shedd. Currently referred to as “Pup 681,” Shedd’s animal care and veterinarian teams are providing the continual, round-the-clock care she needs to thrive.

The small, vulnerable pup was found on September 30th on Coastways Beach in California, and, at that time, was estimated to be only one week old and weighing around 2 pounds. A citizen on an evening walk heard the newborn otter’s cry and quickly notified The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC). TMMC staff contacted Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otters Program, and scientists determined the pup could not be safely retrieved that evening due to the remote location and impending darkness. The following morning, the pup was still in the same location and determined to have been orphaned, and it was estimated she had been separated from her mother for at least 16 hours. Scientists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Sea Otter Program responded immediately to recover the pup and transport her to Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Program has been studying and helping recover the threatened Southern Sea Otter since 1984. The program works with other aquariums, such as Shedd, and wildlife rescue facilities to respond to every sea otter that comes ashore in distress along the California coast. Over the past 25 years, nearly 700 sea otters have come through this program.

Stranded Sea Otter pups require extensive round-the-clock care and there are only a handful of facilities in the United States with the available space, staff and experience to provide the appropriate care. Shedd officials and animal care staff quickly accepted Monterey Bay Aquarium’s call to provide the stranded pup with a permanent home.

To ensure the pup receives everything that she needs, a rotating schedule of six to eight animal care experts provides care and attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During this intensive nurturing period, she will remain behind the scenes in the Regenstein Sea Otter Nursery as she develops certain behaviors, such as grooming, foraging, and feeding, as well as regulating her own body temperature by getting in and out of the water.

As she acclimates to her new surroundings, Pup 681 reaches new milestones every day, including taking formula from a bottle, eating solid foods such as shrimp and clams and even climbing upon white towels when she gets wet to help her groom and regulate her body temperature.

More info and amazing pics, below the fold!

Continue reading "Shedd Aquarium Staff Foster Sea Otter Pup" »

Rockhopper Penguin Chick Hatches at Shedd Aquarium


As if to say, "Hello world!" the newest Rockhopper Penguin hatchling waved its tiny wings for the camera at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. Hatched just about a month ago, the chick is thriving and growing quickly, as penguins tend to do, before guests' eyes each day: Gaining weight, eating, and building relationships with its feathery neighbors on exhibit in the Polar Play Zone. The open nesting location there allows guests the rare opportunity to watch and learn about the chick as it develops and grows.

Visitors also have the unique chance to see the mother and father care for the hatchling, sharing parenting responsibilities in equal shifts. The experienced parental Penguin pair is feeding the bird well, according to Ken Ramirez, Executive Vice President of animal care and training for Shedd, but there are more key milestones ahead. The chick will learn to eat on its own before acquiring waterproof plumage and diving into its swimming skills for the first time.

Peng 2

Peng 3

Peng CU
Photo Credit: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

Keepers observe and weigh the bird daily. Born at 75 grams, the chick gains approximately 40 grams per day and is now at a healthy weight of 1,019 grams. The gender of the chick has yet to be determined. It is difficult to identify gender in Penguins without genetic testing, as there is no observable difference in male and female anatomy. Watch as the Penguin chick interacts with its trainer below:

Blind California Sea Lion Finds Home at Shedd Aquarium

Tanner touches his nose to a visual target.

Cruz, a disabled California Sea Lion pup, has found a new home at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA rescued the pup in July 2012, when he was discovered alone on a beach in Santa Cruz. Blinded in both eyes by gunshot wounds, Cruz recovered at the Marine Mammal Center and now joins three other California Sea Lions at Shedd Aquarium, including a five-year old rescue named Tanner.

“Building trusting relationships is the cornerstone to providing the highest quality care for our animals, particularly in Cruz’s case,” says Ken Ramirez, Shedd Aquarium’s executive vice president of animal care and training. “We literally have to be his eyes, which requires a solid bond between animal and trainer. Since he arrived at the aquarium, Cruz has been comfortably relying on our animal care team to guide him, demonstrating incredible progress.” 

Cruz D75Q9489

Cruz D75Q9363 crop
Cruz trains with a rattle. Photo credits: Brenna Hernandez / Shedd Aquarium

Cruz’s training is adapted to fit his strengths. Usually, caretakers train the animals to follow and touch a visual target, rewarding them with food. This touch-target training helps the animals to cooperate with caretakers as they do health checkups and clean. Cruz successfully follows an auditory cue, a rattle, instead of a visual target.


“Though blind in both eyes, he has a fearless personality and eagerness to learn – two characteristics that indicated we could provide him with a strong quality of life through training,” says Ramirez.

Read more about Cruz and Tanner after the fold.

Continue reading "Blind California Sea Lion Finds Home at Shedd Aquarium" »