Zoo Watch: Sea lion pups make a splash at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
- Credit: Archant
Two male California sea lion pups were born at Whipsnade Zoo in June.
Adventurous pup Hanno was born to first-time mum Lara on Sunday, June 10, while the more laid-back pup Oakley was born to second-time mum Bailey on Sunday, June 23.
After giving birth, 10-year-old Lara and 11-year-old Bailey have taken to motherhood well and are doting on their offspring.
Team leader Tim Savage said: “The first pup was immediately so curious and adventurous, we decided to name him Hanno, after the fifth century oceanic explorer. At night he goes on little missions and explores the sea lion house!
“Lara’s always been the cheekiest member of the group, but she’s so attentive with Hanno, never letting him out of her sight. Every time Hanno tries to go near the water, she pulls him back.
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“This isn’t Bailey’s first pup, so she’s much more confident and relaxed. She leaves Oakley to snooze while she goes off for a swim.
“They’ve both had a little splash in the pool, but neither of the pups are strong swimmers yet. Over the next month they will learn to dive, and practice holding their breath, and soon visitors will see them confidently swimming around the pool with their mums, and dad Dominic.”
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The pups, which are covered in fur, will eventually grow to be two metres long. They are an addition to the colony at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and are part of the European breeding programme for the species.
California sea lions, or Zalophus californianus, originate from the rocky coastlines of the Pacific Ocean and live in large colonies, led by a dominant male and his harem of female mates.
Tim said: “After a birth, male sea lions guard their harem of females, which means they do not leave to get food. Although “Dominic has no competition and plenty of food available to him here, he acts in exactly the same way, fasting for a month and making a lot of noise to show this is his territory!
“Don’t feel too bad for him though, he prepared for his fast by eating lots before the births!”
Summer visitors to the zoo will be able to see Hanno and Oakley learn to swim alongside the rest of the sea lions clan.