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Nessie, the zoo's new elephant seal, is tougher and more photogenic than you

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette logo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1/15/2020 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
a dog swimming in a body of water © Provided by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The newest member of the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium is Nessie, a northern elephant seal who appears to be quite photogenic. It’s why you clicked on the link.

But Nessie’s story is better than that of your average northern elephant seal, presumably, so come learn more about her.

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium said Nessie “was rescued, rehabbed, and then released five separate times before Sea World San Diego Rescue’s Animal Care Team determined that Nessie was not able to survive on her own in the wild.” That team then contacted Pittsburgh’s zoo and aquarium — the only facility for caring for such animals on the continent — about adopting her.

“Each time she was found, she was severely underweight and malnourished and had beached herself,” said Paul Moylett, curator of aquatic life, adding that many northern elephant seals don’t develop natural skills because they’re left on their own very young. But Nessie arrived without any physical impairments.

Nessie spent time in quarantine to ensure good health and time to adjust to new surroundings, said Dr. Ginger Sturgeon, the zoo’s director of animal health.

At the end of 2019, Nessie moved to her permanent home at the Water’s Edge exhibit, the zoo said, and she’s becoming curious about Ellie Mae, the other elephant seal there.

“It is a slow process and we are taking our cues from Nessie, letting her set the schedule for when she is comfortable enough to share space first with Ellie Mae and then sea lions Nav and Piper,” Mr. Moylett said.

In December, the zoo’s male northern elephant seal, Coolio, died after suffering from “congenital abnormalities, including blood vessel abnormalities, likely resulting in severe hypertension.”

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