Blind seal ready to meet with visitors

January 21, 2008 4:31:10 AM PST

A blind harbor seal named Alfred, which made its debut Friday, was rescued off the coast of New Jersey nearly a year ago and, after a long search by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, the L.A. Zoo took him in October.

The seal has spent the time since in quarantine and is adjusting to his new surroundings. He was placed among four female companions at the Sea Life Cliffs habitat near the zoo's entrance.

"He is displaying all the behaviors that we would see in a mating ritual," zoo trainer Lauren Whittemore told KCAL-TV. "They are doing everything that they should be doing, so blindness doesn't seem to be affecting that part of nature."

Zoo officials say Alfred, who is missing one eye and is blind in the other but otherwise healthy, uses the sensitive nerve endings in his whiskers to find his way around his new home.

He weighed a mere 90 pounds when he was found last February, most likely because his blindness kept him from catching fish. He has since doubled in weight, but remains small - harbor seals often reach 300 pounds.


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