Safari park keepers’ joy as third sea lion pup is born within a year

Safari park keepers’ joy as third sea lion pup is born within a year
Nessie the sea lion pup shields its eyes from the sun at Blair Drummond safari park (Andrew Milligan/PA)
PA Wire/PA Images - Andrew Milligan

Keepers are celebrating after a sea lion with an “adventurous spirit” was born at a safari park.

California sea lion Luce gave birth to her second pup, Nessie, on June 25 after an 11-month pregnancy.

Nessie, named after the mythical Loch Ness monster, is the third pup born at Blair Drummond Safari Park in the past year and joins big brother, Barney, which was born in June 2023.

Keepers said Nessie and Luce are both doing well and will be monitored closely over the first few weeks.

Sea lion pup at Blair Drummond Safari ParkNessie with her mother, Luce (Andrew Milligan/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Andrew Milligan

Sea lions team leader, Jen Carpenter, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Nessie to our family.

“Nessie is growing more confident every day and, just like the mythical creature she’s named for, seems to have a very adventurous spirit.

“Last year’s pups are extremely curious about her, and it will be lovely to see them all playing together in the future.

“California sea lions are such a charismatic species and really help us to educate our visitors about the importance of marine biodiversity.”

Sea lion pup at Blair Drummond Safari ParkPark staff said Nessie has an ‘adventurous spirit’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Andrew Milligan

Confirming sea lion pregnancies can be a challenging task but the team at Blair Drummond, which is located near Stirling, found a way to use ultrasound to help.

Initially they worked with a dummy machine to get the sea lions used to the sensation of having the ultrasound wand moved over them without dealing with the vibrations and high-frequency sounds – which they hear more clearly than people do.

The team then acclimatised the group to these sounds by having the real machine near them during training, without actually touching them with it.

Eventually, the two phases came together, allowing the team to complete a true ultrasound and Nessie was discovered during one of these training sessions.

Sea lion pup at Blair Drummond Safari ParkNessie was born in June and both mother and pup are being monitored closely (Andrew Milligan/PA)PA Wire/PA Images - Andrew Milligan

Lead veterinarian Romain Pizzi said: “Having our sea lions voluntarily participate in the ultrasound process gives us a significant advantage.

“It lets us know for sure whether our sea lions are pregnant and eliminates guesswork.

“Once the pregnancy is confirmed, our team can then prepare accordingly by adjusting the mother’s diet and getting things ready for the pup’s arrival.

“Building up to this point took a lot of effort, but the payoff has been absolutely worth it.”

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