Sounds of the Saxophone for Taronga’s Leopard Seal
Friday 5th July 2013

Leopard Seal Casey woke to the jazz sounds of a saxophone at Taronga Zoo this morning thanks to Elephant Keeper Steve.

In conjunction with the Australian Marine Mammal Research Centre (AMMRC) based at Taronga Zoo, keepers are providing Casey with a variety of audible Environmental Enrichment activities, one of which is the saxophone.

It involves our talented zoo keeper and musician, Steve, playing saxophone next to the glass underwater viewing window of the seal’s pool to study how he responds to different sounds.

Marine Mammals Supervisor, Ryan Tate, said usually Leopard Seals sing to attract mates and possibly to establish territories. He found that Casey sings back to the sounds depended on the time of year.

“At certain times of year they really react to the noises and sing back. They are certainly aware of new noises, so something like the saxophone was a great way of giving our Leopard Seal some different environmental enrichment,” Ryan said.

”Ranging from some very high pitched sounds to a wide variety of music, we think Casey was having a good time with Steve and his saxophone.”

“It was not only the music that seemed to interest Casey but the visual effect of Steve with an impressive looking instrument caught his attention,” he said.

Elephant Keeper, Steve said it was definitely one of the biggest audiences he has played to, in sheer individual size that is. He has also played to Taronga’s elephant herd one or two times, as well as his dog at home.

Casey is the only Leopard Seal in human care in the world. Away from its habitat in the Antarctic, Casey was rescued when found severely emaciated near Sydney. After recovering, Casey remained the Zoo and is assisting with the research by the AMMRC to study Leopard Seals, helping the species into the future.

It’s recommended that marine wildlife in human care not return to Antarctica to avoid any possible risk of disease transfer to wild populations.