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Sea lion in the swim at Belfast Zoo

A Californian sea lion is the latest addition for Belfast Zoo.

The unnamed pup was born to mother Arielle and father Wesley last month, bringing the number of sea lions at the Cave Hill site to seven.

Curator Andrew Hope said: "Our sea lions are extremely popular with both keepers and visitors and we are delighted to welcome another pup this year."

Californian sea lions have been at Belfast Zoo for 60 years and are managed as part of a European collaborative breeding programme.

Since his arrival from Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire, in February 2007, Wesley has fathered 18 pups.

Female sea lions, called cows, usually give birth to a pup every year.

The mother provides milk which is high in fat and helps the pup grow the important layer of blubber which allows the sea lion to keep warm. She continues to nurse the pup until it is about six months old.

Mr Hope added: "The gang are certainly one of the noisiest species at our Cave Hill site, especially at breeding time.

"Sea lions make all sorts of barks, honks, trumpets and roars and a sea lion pup can pick out its mother just by the sound she makes. Between the male's roaring, the mother's barking and the pup's bleating the sea lions are making themselves heard all across the zoo."

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