The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is barking with excitement over the birth of their new Sea Lion pup! Callie, a 6-year old California Sea Lion, gave birth to the pup last Friday in a behind-the-scenes area.
“Both mother and baby are doing very well,” says Henry Kacprzyk, curator of KidsKingdom. “They are communicating and the pup is nursing. Callie is a first-time mom, but she is doing very well. We think that Callie, having watched both Zoey and Maggie with their pups, has learned how to care for her pup. Right now, she is being very protective while and she and the pup rest on the deck. She barks aggressively if she thinks keepers are getting to close,” Mr. Kacprzyk continued. “The other Sea Lions are keeping a safe distance until Callie is comfortable with them being near her pup.”
Keepers will not interfere with Callie raising her pup unless they suspect the baby isn’t nursing or communicating with mom. The mortality rate for Sea Lion pups is 10 to 15 percent in the first month, so keepers and vet staff are keeping a close eye on mother and baby.
Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Zoo/PPG Aquarium
Sea Lions typically mate in July and August. Gestation is nine months, but the egg isn’t fertilized until two to three months after mating, so pups are generally born in the summer, when food is more plentiful. The pups are born dark brown to black, but will their coats fade to light brown within a couple of weeks. They are well-developed when born, opening their eyes and vocalizing to their mother. Within a half-hour of birth, they can to shake, scratch, walk, and groom themselves.
The next step for the pup is swimming. Sea Lions typically don’t swim until a few weeks old.“We will keep a watchful eye when the pup goes into the water and see how mom reacts,” says Mr. Kacprzyk. “Like new parents, we will be nervous.”
While California Sea Lions aren't, many species of Sea Lions are endangered. For a long time humans were responsible for declining numbers. It is illegal in many areas to hunt, hurt or kill them, but it doesn't always stop that from taking place. There are also natural reasons, most related to health problems like tape worm, cancer and penumonia. That occurs in both captivity and the wild. Cleaning up the environment and providing cleaner water would go a long way to averting illness and keeping their food supply healthier too.