It's a heart-tugging sight some beach-strolling Californians know all too well: a young or harbor seal stranded on land.
But places like the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach are at the ready to assist pinnipeds in a tight spot. And that's just what happened when a one-day-old female harbor seal was found on a "narrow, rocky stretch of coast" not far from Dana Point.
The pup, found on Feb. 3, 2016, still had "the umbilical cord attached to her premature body." Mom couldn't be found, and center staffers understood that the area was not one where harbor seals are known to give birth.
Once the pup was safely back at the Laguna Beach center, "around the clock" bottle feeding began at once, providing the seal with much-needed nutrition.
Today "Ziggy" is nearly a year old, she is thriving and in fine fettle, and she has a new home to boot (or to fin, if you prefer): Los Angeles Zoo.
Because of Ziggy's age when she was found stranded, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center decided releasing her back to the ocean wasn't a viable option (a path rehabilitation centers often choose, depending on the circumstances). Concern that she "could survive on her own" played a part in the care facility's decision.
Ziggy is now residing at the LA Zoo's Sea Life Cliffs along with a trio of Atlantic harbor seals (Alfred, Asia, and Mysti). What she'll be doing daily, in addition to exercising and engaging in enrichment activities? "Educating guests on Native California Marine Life."
The zoo reveals that the newest resident, who they praise for her keen intelligence and ability to learn quickly, "has begun training on a variety of behaviors to ensure her health and stimulate her energy."
Also seen since her November 2016 arrival? An affection for "playing" at the observation window when humans draw near.
To say hello to the winsome pinniped and her whiskery neighbors, and to hear an animal keeper discuss harbor seals, their care, and their world, stop by Sea Life Cliffs at LA Zoo on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 in the morning.