There's a new set of flippers splashing around Colorado's Denver Zoo. A California sea lion pup, born on the evening of June 11, is the first of its species born at the zoo since 2010. Weighing in at just 20 pounds, the unnamed male pup is starting to learn how to swim with the help of his mother, Luci.
Although pups can see and vocalize at birth, they usually don't learn to swim for a week or two. Keepers say that he's turning out to be very vocal, making lots of sheep-like noises, and he's starting to show a curious and independent personality in his swimming sessions with mom.
Luci makes a wonderfully attentive mother. At night, she wakes her pup to make sure he is nursing regularly, and keeps a close eye on him when the two are at the seal pool. She's been eating 20 pounds of fish per day to ensure that the pup is receiving milk that is high in nutrients. The pup will spend his first year nursing while transitioning to fish.
Visitors can watch mother and pup exploring the zoo's Northern Shores exhibit, weather permitting.
The pup is the second offspring for Luci and father, Nick, who welcomed female Ady in 2010. (Luci was born in Orlando, Florida at Sea World in 2001 and came to Denver Zoo two years later. Nick came to Denver Zoo from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California in 2008.)
California Sea Lions are found along the west coast of North America from Baja California to British Columbia. They are highly social animals, gathering in large groups called colonies. Their streamlined bodies allow them to swim at speeds of 25 to 30 miles per hour (40 to 48 km/hr), and their remarkable vision allows them to see well during the day and at night. They are listed as a species of Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.
Sea Lions are born after a 12-month reproductive cycle. This begins with a 3-month delayed implantation, when the embryo lies dormant before implanting into the uterus. This process is followed by a 9-month gestation period. The little pup has a lot of growing to do: adult males weigh 500 to 800 pounds (227 to 363 kg) as adults, while adult females are between 200 and 250 pounds (91 to 113 kg).