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Aquarium welcomes arrival of sea lions, gray seal

NIAGARA FALLS – A California sea lion mother and pup along with a gray seal have found new homes at the Aquarium of Niagara, the facility announced Thursday.

The three marine mammals, who came to the Aquarium over the last few months, include Mia, a 6-year-old California sea lion rescued last year by the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, Calif.

When Mia was rescued, she was malnourished and treated for pneumonia. While being cared for, Mia gave birth to a healthy pup, Isabel, in June of last year, aquarium officials said.

Mia eventually was able to care for Isabel, but because both Mia and Isabel were dependent on human care, they were deemed “non-releasable” by National Marine Fisheries.

Since their arrival in Niagara Falls in May, both California sea lions continue to receive care at the Aquarium of Niagara and will become part of the facility’s programs to foster education and conservation goals, Gary Siddall, deputy director and head trainer, said in a statement.

Pepper, a gray seal, arrived at the Aquarium on Monday from the Indianapolis Zoo.

In April 2007, Pepper was found stranded in Asbury Park, N.J., following a nor’easter which left the 7-month-old with a broken vertebra and her hind flippers paralyzed.

After care at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J., she was brought back to health but could not be released because of her limited mobility, Aquarium of Niagara officials said.

After being transferred to Indianapolis later in 2007, Pepper underwent multiple surgeries to amputate her unusable hind flippers.

Aquarium officials report Pepper is adjusting well to her new home, which she shares with four other seals.