Taronga Zoo has welcomed a new Australian sea-lion pup who has already begun to boss his keepers around.
Ryan Tate, Senior Marine Mammal Keeper explained,” He’s been showing everyone who’s boss, pushing his whiskers forward, bellowing and mock charging at us. It’s pretty impressive for an animal that had a rocky start to life.”
His bossiness doesn’t stop with the keepers. When he first wanted a feed he taught mum Lexie how to feed him. At first mum, Lexie was reluctant to turn on her side which would allow the pup to suckle. He took to nipping her until she allowed him to feed.
Lexie is an orphan who was found in South Australia seven years ago. Dad, Malie moved to Taronga from Adelaide Zoo as part of the Australian breeding program.
Keepers were assisted in choosing the pups name by a long term supporter of the marine mammal programs at Taronga. They chose the name ‘Maximus’ which combines the names of his parents.
The pup is growing well as Tate explained, “He’s now been putting on 100 grams a day. He began learning to swim a few weeks ago in a special pool we have in which we can control the depth. At first he was just walking through puddles, then as he got more confident Lexie started calling him into deeper water.”
Recently he has begun to swim in the bigger pool of Seal Cove near the Zoo’s Lower Entrance. “Max spends most of his time exploring the exhibit and we’ve seen him playing in the waterfall, trying to catch the water with his mouth and barking at it. He’s also just started swimming in the main pool with mum,” added Tate.
Australian sea lions are one of the most intelligent sea lion species. On occasion they have hidden items from keepers so they could play with them later.
Unfortunately their playfulness has not stopped their numbers from falling to just 10,000. Even though hunting stoped in the 1920s their population continues to drop as they become by-catch or get entangled in marine debris.
Photo Credit: Madeline Smitham/ Paul Fahy/ Taronga Zoo