View from the Zoo: Murphy gets used to his surroundings

Flamingo Land's newest arrival at the zoo ' Murphy the sea lion.
Flamingo Land's newest arrival at the zoo ' Murphy the sea lion.

We would like to introduce you to Murphy our one-year-old Californian sea lion who arrived from Belfast zoo in February.

He joins the zoo’s bachelor group which includes Clive our big dominant male as well as Merlin, Marvin and Miguel. Murphy is still getting used to his new surroundings and can be seen occasionally after shows and in the pool but is a bit too young to take centre stage just yet.

The sea lion show at Flamingo Land is one of the venue’s most popular attractions. It gives visitors a chance to learn about sea lions as a species and individually.

They are trained and cared for by our dedicated team. Training an animal is a skill which is beneficial to both the animal and keeper. It is not something done purely for human entertainment by providing shows, it helps the zoo keepers to keep a check on the animal’s health, welfare and to build trust between the animal and its keeper.

Training the animals in this way provides physical and mental stimulation and helps to promote natural behaviours. For example, balancing a ball on a sea lion’s nose requires it to feel the weight and direction of the ball through its whiskers. The sea lion would use similar behaviours in the wild when detecting the location of fish by feeling the ripples travelling through the water.

Californian sea lions are found on the west coast of North America. Due to the large stretch of coastline they can be found in a variety of habitats.

They spend their time either swimming or hunting in the water, or on land on sandy beaches or rocks, particularly during the breeding season. Sea lions are mammals and hold their breath during dives for between three and nine minutes as they hunt fish and squid. However, they are always alert for predators such as sharks or killer whales.

Adult females and males differ in appearance with the males growing a lot bigger and some also have a large amount of fur around their neck – similar to a lion’s mane, hence the name sea ‘lion’.

The average life span of a sea lion in the wild would be around 15 to 24 years, however in captivity they can live a lot longer.