ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s keepers have a couple of exciting new additions to care for, with the arrival of two California sea lion pups.
Adventurous male pup Hanno was born to first-time mum Lara on Sunday 10 June, while the more laid-back male pup Oakley was born to second-time mum Bailey on Saturday 23 June.
After giving birth at the UK’s largest Zoo, ten-year-old Lara and eleven-year-old Bailey have taken to motherhood swimmingly, and are already proving to be doting mums to the lively pups.
Team Leader Tim Savage is overjoyed at the new arrivals and 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. 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.”
Covered in fur, the pups will eventually grow to be over two metres long. The new pups are a valuable addition to the colony of California sea lions at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and the European conservation breeding programme for the species. Originating from the rocky coastlines of the Pacific Ocean, all along the west coast of the USA, California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) live in large colonies, led by a dominant male and his harem of female mates.
Tim continued: “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 ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will be able to see Hanno and Oakley learning to swim alongside the rest of the sea lion clan.