A tiny California sea lion pup has staff and visitors at a zoo swooning since its recent arrival.
Born to first-time parents Bailey and Dominic the two-week-old male, named Oscar, is the first baby to arrive at the Whipsnade Zoo in Dunstable since dad Dominic was born in 2007.
After giving birth outside on the edge of the sea lion’s pool, Bailey has taken to motherhood swimmingly, and is already proving to be a doting mum to the incredibly lively pup.
Covered in a downy fur, Oscar will not stay tiny for long. The pup is set to grow up to 7.5ft in length and is already showing similarities with dad Dominic – who was a notoriously cheeky pup – by demanding mum’s attention at all times.
Zookeeper Alex Pinnell said she is overjoyed at Oscar’s arrival but admitted they must stay hands off with the pup for now while the new family get to know one another.
“The new pup is a great addition to the colony and the European conservation breeding programme for this species, and it’s brilliant for us to see Bailey being such a good mum,” she said.
“We’ve named the pup Oscar, which we think suits his personality, and as ‘O’ is the 15th letter in the alphabet, we’ll always easily remember that he was born in 2015!
“A new infant is not only exciting for the zookeepers, but also for the other sea lions as it’s something brand new for them and they all love the new addition to their group. We’re staying hands off for now, to allow them all to get to know one another.”
Originating from the rocky coastlines of the Pacific Ocean, all along the west coast of the USA, California sea lions live in large colonies, led by a dominant male and his harem of female mates.
Perfectly adapted to life on land and underwater, California sea lions have smooth streamlined bodies, and strong flippers to power them through the water in pursuit of their prey. Able to rotate their rear flippers forward, the sea lions are able to move comfortably on land where they usually breed and give birth.
We’re staying hands off for now, to allow them all to get to know one another.Zookeeper Alex Pinnell
Visitors to Whipsnade Zoo will be able to see Oscar and mum Bailey splashing around with the rest of the sea lion clan, dad Dominic and ‘aunt’ Lara.