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Blank Park Zoo welcomed a new harbor seal on Aug. 20, 2019. They are asking for the public's help in naming her. Blank Park Zoo, Special to the Register

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Blank Park Zoo just welcomed a new pup into its seal family. 

The 32-pound female harbor seal was born Aug. 20, the zoo announced in a Thursday news release. Both the baby and her mother, Meru, are doing well. 

Meru is a good, protective mother and her pup "is curious about everything, loves to explore and is very vocal,”  Travis Wickersham, area supervisor of carnivores and primates, said in the release.

In a few weeks, the young seal will be introduced to her outdoor habitat, Hub Harbor, where she will live with her mother, Meru, father, Ross, and brother, Monty, who was born Aug. 4, 2018. Two California sea lions named Addy and Zoey are also part of the harbor. 

Zoo officials said visitors over the next few months won't always be able to see the pup as she is eventually weaned off her mother. 

In the meantime, the pup is still without a name, but the zoo is giving community members the opportunity to help decide on one.

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Through Sept. 12, anyone can submit name suggestions for the new zoo member in exchange for a donation toward the non-profit zoo, according to zoo officials. 

One name suggestion can be submitted along with a $50 donation and three name suggestions can be submitted for $100. 

Zoo officials ask that name ideas be only one or two syllables long since the pup will be part of a "positive training program." 

The zoo plans to release its top name picks for the public to vote on by Sept. 16. The final name will announced Sept. 24, according to the zoo's website.

“She will be a great ambassador for aquatic animals and our oceans,” Katie Lathrop, assistant supervisor of carnivores and primates, said in the release of the new pup.

The newborn's parents are rescue animals who were injured in the wild, the zoo said. When animal rescuers decided they couldn't be released back into the wild in 2011, the seals took up permanent residency in Des Moines. The Hub Harbor seal and sea lion pool opened early the following year.

Both parents are nearly blind and were rescued in 2011 from the Pacific Ocean, zoo officials said. Meru also has a paralyzed flipper and struggles to swim. 

More: Pupper, Blank Park Zoo’s elderly sea lion, dies at 29

"Harbor seals are facing pressures in natural areas with issues of poor nutrition because of a lack of fish to eat," Lathrop said, attributing the issue to over-fishing, rising ocean temperatures and ocean polluters like plastics.

In honor of the pup, the zoo donated $1,000 to the Marine Mammal Center, according to the release.

Blank Park Zoo is also part of an effort to increase awareness of plastic pollution by asking community members to stop using plastic straws through a pledge effort called #StomptheStraw.

Anna Spoerre covers crime and courts for the Des Moines Register. She can be contacted at aspoerre@dmreg.com, 515-284-8387 or on Twitter at @annaspoerre.

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