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Blind seal gives birth and nurtures the pup at an Illinois zoo

Zoo officials say a grey seal found stranded and blind more than a decade ago on an island in Maine has given birth at a Chicago-area zoo and is now “a very attentive mother" to her newborn. (Jim Schulz/Brookfield Zoo via AP) Zoo officials say a grey seal found stranded and blind more than a decade ago on an island in Maine has given birth at a Chicago-area zoo and is now “a very attentive mother" to her newborn. (Jim Schulz/Brookfield Zoo via AP)
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BROOKFIELD, Ill. -

A grey seal found stranded and blind more than a decade ago on an island in Maine has given birth at a Chicago-area zoo and is now “a very attentive mother" to her newborn, zoo officials said Friday.

The 11-year-old seal named “Georgie” gave birth on Feb. 17 to a nearly 35-pound male pup at the Brookfield Zoo. He's gained 15 pounds in his first week on his mother's extremely rich milk, and has been practicing his swimming skills in a pool, zoo officials said.

After Georgie was found stranded on an island in Georgetown, Maine, near the Atlantic Ocean in 2013, it was determined she was blind in her left eye and functionally blind in her right eye.

Due to her impaired vision, authorities with the National Marine Fisheries Service decided she could not be released back into the wild. She arrived in 2020 at the Brookfield Zoo, west of downtown Chicago.

But Georgie's vision loss hasn't affected her ability to care for her newborn — she's nurturing the pup and has proven to be “a very attentive mother,” said Mark Gonka, the zoo’s associate director of marine mammal care and conservation.

“Grey seals have a keen sense of smell as well as a repertoire of vocalizations. Georgie is able to locate her pup by his distinct smell and call," Gonka said in a statement.

Like Georgie, the pup's father, a 23-year-old grey seal named Kiinaq, was also stranded in the wild and deemed unreleasable when he was only a few months old.

The Brookfield Zoo said the newborn pup's birth from two parents of wild descent is helping to increase the genetic diversity of the grey seal population in accredited North American zoos and aquariums.

Grey seals face threats that include entanglement in fishing gear, illegal hunting, chemical contaminants and climate change, the zoo said.

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