As we have pointed out in the past, Sea Lion pups do not know how to swim at birth and must be taught by mom. Oftentimes the pups are cautious about approaching the water but not this little guy. Not even two weeks old, the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium's newest baby Sea Lion dives right in and bops around, albeit a bit awkwardly. This is the first pup for mother Maggie and only the second at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, so staff are keeping a watchful eye on the talkative and active pup.
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The mortality rate of sea lions is 10 to 15 percent in the first month, so keepers and medical staff will keep a close eye on the two. “We are all very excited and happy for Maggie,” says Henry Kacprzyk, curator of Kids Kingdom. “Both mom and pup appear to be doing very well. They are communicating and the pup is nursing, which are the two most important indicators of good health. The fact that Maggie witnessed and participated in the development of another pup for the last 16 months, will help her be a good mom as well.” This is Maggie’s first pup and the second pup born in the history of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.
Maggie delivered her baby near the keeper door to the outside pool deck and is being very protective of her baby. “We can’t even open the keeper door because Maggie is keeping everyone away,” says Ms. Obeldobel. “Especially Summer and Sidney (Zoey’s 16 month-old pup) who are very curious and want to have a look, but Maggie chases them right back into the water.” Once Maggie is comfortable, keepers and the vet staff will exam, weigh, and determine the sex of the baby. We will not interfere unless we suspect that the baby isn’t nursing or if it stops communicating with mom. The next big challenge for the pup is when Maggie begins the first swimming lessons in a couple of weeks.
Sea lions normal total gestation is eleven months, which can include a delayed implantation of an additional two to three months. Pups are generally born in the summer when food is more plentiful. Delayed implantation is when the embryo remains in a state of dormancy before it begins to develop. “Because September is a late birth, we are being sure to provide enough warmth for mom and pup,” says Mr. Kacprzyk. Keepers have placed overhead and radiant heaters safely nearby.
Sea lions normally give birth to one pup, but on rare occasions, twins have been born. Sea lion pups are born dark brown to black, but will fade to light brown within a couple of weeks. At birth they are well-developed and can move, scratch, and groom themselves. Swimming will occur when the pup is a couple of weeks old.