MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — A young female spotted seal named Nuna, originally rescued in Alaska, has found a new home at Mystic Aquarium.
Nuna was rescued in may in Stebbins, Alaska, and was treated by Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) before arriving at Mystic Aquarium. She was first found in May by children playing on a beach in Stebbins who noticed a seal in distress.
The kids alerted tribal elders about what they saw and Nuna was transferred to ASLC only weeks after her birth on May 24. She was treated at the center by animal care professionals for emaciation and dehydration. Due to gastrointestinal issues, she was found to be anemic, too.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) deemed Nuna non-releasable during her treatment.
At Mystic, Nuna joins the Pacific Northwest exhibit with another rescued spotted seal, Siku.
Nuna was named after a river south of Stebbins, Nunavulnuk. In Eskimo, Nunavulnuk means “river that widens to a lake.”
Nuna was found amid an Unusual Mortality Event (UME), which is defined by NOAA as “a stranding that is unexpected; involves a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demands immediate response.”
She’s a survivor. It is always a privilege for us to be able to provide world-class animal care and a forever home for any of our species ambassadors. But one with such an incredible story helps us further educate and inform our guests not only of the importance of caring for our oceans but how they, too, can do their part. We know that Nuna will provide the inspiration.Laurie Macha, Curator of Marine Mammals & Birds at Mystic
There have been increased ice seal strandings in the Bering and Chukchi Seas in Alaska since June 2018, which prompted NOAA to declare a UME. Other ice-associated seals aside from spotted seals include bearded, ringed and ribbon seals.
An independent team of scientists put together by NOAA are investigating the UME. The investigation is still ongoing, but there is speculation that the early-season lack of sea ice is negatively impacting ice seals. Reduction in food availability and possible harmful algal blooms could also be contributors.
NOAA Fisheries said “understanding and investigating marine mammal UMEs is crucial because they can be indicators of ocean health, giving insight into larger environmental issues which may also have implications for human health.”
Nuna will be featured in an upcoming episode of the National Geographic Wild series, Saving Wild Alaska, that will air in 2020.