The New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center is the new home for two one-year-old California sea lion pups, recently named Zoe and Sierra. They aren't on exhibit yet, but they will be later this summer. The pups were rescued near Santa Barbara, California. Their mothers were very sick and rejected them at birth. As a result the pups were hand raised at the Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center.
Hand-raised pups cannot be released back into the ocean because they have not had the opportunity to learn how to forage, navigate and respond to predators.
Sea lion pups usually stay with their mothers for a year or so. Toward the end of the year they are weaned. By the time the pups arrived at the Aquarium, one was eating fish on her own. The other pup was still transitioning from formula to fish. She began eating fish on her own about two weeks ago.
Before the sea lions can be introduced to the fur seals, they spend some time behind the scenes in quarantine. This allows us to insure that they are perfectly healthy before introducing them to the fur seals. It also gives us time to develop a rapport with the pups as we begin introducing them to the training program and establish some basic behaviors.
These youngsters are full of energy. They are in constant motion or fast asleep preparing for the next burst of energy! At this point in their training they are learning to follow us around behind the scenes and starting to become comfortable being touched along their sides. In this video I've just started to lightly touch one of the sea lions while feeding.
She's made a lot of progress already and is now allowing us to softly pet her during training sessions. Stay tuned to see their progress and their eventual introduction to the fur seals later this summer!
Note: These animals are not on display yet. They will be on exhibit later this summer after their quarantine period is over.