New to NAUSICAA in 2016: Two young sea lions
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, NAUSICAA is welcoming two new sea lions, Balou and Scooby, who are almost two years old. They joined NAUSICAA’s five other sea lions after being in quarantine for a month and are already happily swimming around NAUSICAA’s Californian Reserve, much to the delight of visitors. Born in a European wildlife park, Balou and Scooby are part of a breeding programme.
Like the other five sea lions at NAUSICAA, Balou and Scooby are Californian sea lions (Zalophus californianus), a species which, as its name suggests, lives in the Pacific Ocean around California, off the west coast of America. It is a protected species under the Washington Convention.
Pinnipeds among marine mammals include sea lions, walruses and seals.
The main difference between sea lions and seals is the presence of external ear flaps – seals have none. Moreover, sea lions are quadrupeds whereas seals crawl along the ground and sea lions use their front flippers to propel themselves through the water, whereas seals use their back flippers like paddles.
Handlers ensure that the sea lions are well cared for, offering them a range of different activities during the day. The animals also undergo specific training designed to teach them to be handled for health reasons (teeth brushing, heart monitoring, treatment of minor wounds or even x-rays and ultrasounds).
NAUSICAA is a world leader in this health care training and it has received a number of awards at international conferences for this work, notably for its paper on voluntary training for intubation and endoscopies.
Other activity sessions are designed to provide the animals with physical exercise (jumps etc.). Twice a day, the public is shown just what NAUSICAA’s sea lions can do.
With all this experience, the sea lion team at NAUSICAA has already begun training Balou and Scooby. Being so young, these sea lions are very receptive to everything on offer and they are making rapid progress with basic skills such as touching a target or moving from one area to another. The results achieved in just a few weeks are quite amazing.
Did you know?
In Californian sea lions, gestation lasts for 11 months, including a period of several weeks during which the embryo does not develop.
Future mothers prepare themselves for pupping about a day before their cubs are born. The resident male pays little attention to this and the female ignores him, often trying to avoid him altogether.
Then, about one month after delivery, the females come into season again and their behaviour undergoes a radical change because, among Californian sea lions, it is the females who chase the males. The female approaches a male then lies in front of him and repeatedly presses her body against him, twisting, stretching and staring at him.
Sea lions can copulate on land or in the sea. The process often lasts for more than an hour, with breaks during which the female repeats the courtship ritual. As soon as copulation is finished, she pushes her partner away and moves off.
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