Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Zoo get summer off to a splashing start as they welcome sea lion pup

By Claire Williamson

Belfast Zoo have got the summer off to a splashing start with the arrival of a California sea lion pup.

On June 15 the pup was born to mother Arielle and father Wesley.

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

The unnamed pup's arrival brings the number of sea lions at the Cave Hill site to seven.

Belfast Zoo has had great success with this species since becoming home to California sea lions over 60 years ago.

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.

California sea lions in European zoos are managed as part of a collaborative breeding programme and many pups born at Belfast Zoo have moved to zoological collections around the world.

Zoo 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! 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."

Zoo manager, Mark Challis said he was delighted with the new arrival.

He said: "School’s out for summer and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back to the zoo to see our latest arrival.

"We have a full schedule of animal feeding times which take place every day, so why not call by at 10.45am or 3pm to see the pup ‘making waves’ or check out Wesley and the gang at the underwater viewing area."

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A Californian sea lion is the latest addition for Belfast Zoo (Belfast Zoo/PA)
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Californian sea lions have been at Belfast Zoo for 60 years

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