Louisville Zoo Celebrates Mother’s Day with Baby Boom (Media Release)

ZOO CONTACT: Kyle Shepherd
502-238-5331 (Media Cell 502-744-5639)

Zoo welcomes harbor seal and announces giraffe and zebra pregnancies
Part of Zoo Babies presented by Norton Children’s.

 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (May 8, 2022) – The Louisville Zoo is celebrating Mother’s Day with their own baby boom – a harbor seal birth as well as zebra and giraffe pregnancies.

Tonie, a 20-year-old harbor seal, gave birth to her first pup — on her birthday. Staff welcomed the female pup on Friday, April 29, at 1:33 a.m., so Tonie and her offspring officially share a birthday. Harbor seal Oscar is the father. The Zoo is also excited to announce giraffe Kianga and zebra Azizi are both expectant mothers.

“All Zoo births are exciting, especially when we welcome our first-ever harbor seal pup,” said Louisville Zoo Executive Director Dan Maloney. “We are also excited to announce two additional expectant animal ambassadors, giraffe Kianga and zebra Azizi. We can’t wait for our community to watch their journeys and greet these new arrivals.”

The seal pup and mom are doing well. Louisville Zoo keepers report that mom is attentive and showing good maternal care. Vocal and active, the pup even swam within a few hours of her birth.

“The pup was alert and feisty during the neonatal exam done at about 36 hours of age,” said Louisville Zoo Senior Veterinarian Dr. Zoli Gyimesi. At the time of the exam, the pup weighed 6.1 kg (13.5 lbs.) “We are carefully monitoring her nursing bouts and body weight,” Gyimesi said, “to make sure she is getting enough calories and staying hydrated.”

Since Tonie is a first-time mom, the Zoo is taking extra precautions to prevent any disruption of the bonding period with her pup. Mom and pup will remain off exhibit for several weeks while the two bond and until the pup is weaned and eating fish. For now, guests can follow the journey of Tonie and her pup live on the Zoo’s seal cam at louisvillezoo.org/sealcam.

The Zoo will be asking the public to help decide on one of the three possible names for the seal pup. Since her parents are Oscar and Tonie, the Zoo is sticking to an awards theme with the options Emmy, Grammy and Nobel. Zoo guests can even donate to help name the pup at louisvillezoo.org/name-the-harbor-seal-pup starting today.

This birth coincides with the launch of the Louisville Zoo’s new Zoo Babies program presented by Norton Children’s. Zoo Babies will spotlight Tonie and her pup along with the impending giraffe and zebra births.

“At Norton Children’s, we are used to being a part of growing families, so this is a joy for us to support a program that celebrates families of any kind,” said Renee Murphy, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Norton Healthcare.

Zoo Babies is a reminder that every animal birth is important and an opportunity to “better the bond between people and our planet.” To learn more about the program, visit louisvillezoo.org/zoobabies.

In addition to animal mothers, the Zoo is celebrating all mothers by offering moms free general admission on May 8 during regular hours. The Zoo also invites guests to celebrate this special day at Wild Lights, held Thursday through Sunday nights until June 5. Wild Lights is a ticketed event, separate from general admission to the Zoo.


Harbor seals are the most common marine mammals along the coasts (east and west) in the United States. Like all marine mammals, they are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Adult harbor seals weigh up to 285 lbs. and measure up to 6 feet in length, with males being slightly larger than females. Seals in Alaska and the Pacific Ocean are also larger than those found in the Atlantic Ocean. The IUCN (International Union Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species lists harbor seals under the status of Least Concern, with an estimated 315,000 mature seals in the coastal region. Disturbance and intrusion from humans are a threat to harbor seals.


About the Louisville Zoo

Since 2011, under Mayor Fischer’s administration, the Louisville Zoo celebrated its 50th anniversary, opened nine new exhibits and attractions, and won national awards for Glacier Run and School at the Zoo. Considered Kentucky’s most popular not-for-profit paid attraction, the Zoo welcomed nearly 9 million guests in the last decade. In 2021, the Zoo was voted “Best Place to Take Kids in Summer” by LEO Weekly, “Best Kid-Friendly Attraction” by Kentucky Living Magazine, and Boo at the Zoo made the Top 10 Halloween Festivals list by thetravel.com. Community Access Memberships, deep-discount days, the Future Healers Got Zoo Buddies partnership and the accessible playground are among prime efforts to make the Louisville Zoo even safer, more engaging and more inclusive. Among the Louisville Zoo’s most successful conservation programs, the black-footed ferret breeding effort has produced 1,100 kits and repatriated more than 800 of these most highly endangered American mammals to the wild.

The Louisville Zoo, a non-profit organization and state Zoo of Kentucky, is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

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