Taronga Zoo has celebrated another conservation breeding success with the arrival of an Australian Sea-lion pup, the first to be born at the Zoo in seven years.
The pup, a young female, which is yet to be named, was born to first time mother, 'Kira', and father, 'Malie' late in the evening of January 31 and has left her pup crèche to begin exploring the Zoo's marine exhibit, EnergyAustralia's Great Southern Oceans.
Marine Mammals supervisor, Danielle Fox, said: "The arrival of a strong, healthy pup was quite a cause for celebration. Australian Sea-lions are endangered and have a very long pregnancy, up to 14 months, so we had been waiting for the birth for sometime."
"Towards the end of her pregnancy, Kira was absolutely huge and spent most of the time in her pool probably to alleviate some of the discomfort, so I am sure she was just as relieved as we were when the new arrival made an appearance."
Due to the close relationship the keepers have with the seals in their care, throughout Kira's pregnancy they were able to regularly ultrasound her and keep a very close watch on the development of the youngster as well as prepare Kira for a life-changing experience - becoming a mother.
"Kira is a fantastic Mum. Although this is her first pup and Kira is quite a tom-boy at heart, her mothering instincts definitely kicked into overdrive. Within minutes of the birth she started making the haunting cries that Australian Sea-lion mothers make to help the pup identify them in the large breeding colonies."
"Now that the pup has graduated from her pupping crèche, Kira has introduced her to the large Seal Cove Pool. The youngster is still quite uncoordinated in the water and just like a young chid, needs to learn the art of swimming. She definitely has a preference for belly flopping into the pool and when she gets tired, she takes a break by leaning up against her ever doting Mum or splashes around in the shallow end."
"Visitors can welcome Kira and her pup at Seal Cove, located just behind the Zoo's lower entrance at various time throughout the day. As the new arrival becomes more confident in the water her forays into her large pool will increase, but like all new arrivals it is baby steps at the moment," said Danielle.
The successful birth means there are now three generations of Australian Sea-lions at Taronga Zoo's Great Southern Oceans exhibit. Kira, the pup's mother was the last Australian Sea-lion born at Taronga seven years ago and grandfather 'Orson' an animal rescued and re-housed at the Zoo by the RSPCA many years ago also calls Taronga home.
The pup will remain with Kira for sometime with females suckling their pups up to 18 months. Some females care for their offspring for up to three years and can be seen in the breeding colonies with a boisterous juvenile and new pup.
The birth is exceptionally significant with as few as 10,000 Australian Sea-lions remaining in the wild. The World Conservation Union's list for threatened species lists this unique native animal as endangered. Sea-lions were harvested in the 1800s with their populations falling to very low numbers. Despite now being protected, populations of these pinnipeds have not re-bounded and wild populations often become a by-catch of fisheries or become entangled and fatally injured by marine debris.