Bella the rescued Australian Fur Seal resting by the water.

New seal pup making a splash at Melbourne Zoo

11 August 2019

An adorable young seal is winning hearts at Melbourne Zoo following months of veterinary care and rehabilitation.

‘Bella’, an eight-month-old Australian Fur Seal, is settling into her new life at the Zoo after she was found injured and alone on a Victorian beach.

Melbourne Zoo’s Marine Response Unit (MRU) found the seal pup, who had somehow become separated from her mother, on a beach near Queenscliff about two months ago. 

MRU staff initially monitored Bella while waiting for her to return to the water, however then discovered a large abscess on her flipper and bite wounds elsewhere on her body, possibly caused by a dog that had been reported harassing her on the beach.

After successful surgery at Melbourne Zoo’s veterinary facility and extensive rehabilitation, including weaning her from milk feeds to eating fish, it was determined by experts that the best welfare outcome was to permanently house Bella at Melbourne Zoo rather than risk releasing a lone seal pup back into an open ocean.

Melbourne Zoo’s Wild Sea Life Sciences Manager, Adrian Howard, said Bella, named after the Bellarine Peninsula where she was rescued, is the first seal to have been given a new home at Melbourne Zoo in the six years the Marine Response Unit has been operating.

“We knew that Bella in the condition that she was in was unlikely to survive, in fact unlikely to survive 24 hours,” Mr Howard said.  

“The Marine Response Unit’s aim is always to rehabilitate animals back to the wild. In this case we had no choice.

“She’s spent the last two months in our specially-made seal rehabilitation area where she received medication and care to return her to health.

“Bella has passed all of her quarantine checks, so we are really excited at this stage because this means that Bella joins us at the Wild Sea exhibit. What that means is the next step in the process is getting her used to her new area and also getting her used to her new neighbours. 

“We have four other seals here at the Zoo and we will be introducing those four seals individually to Bella and then introducing them all together.”

Melbourne Zoo staff will be closely monitoring Bella over coming days as she settles into her new surroundings. 

The Marine Response Unit has been caring for and protecting Victoria’s marine animals since it was launched in 2013.