View from the Zoo: Sea lions are the mane attaction

Flamingo Land has four California sea lions and are trained by the attraction's dedicated team.
Flamingo Land has four California sea lions and are trained by the attraction's dedicated team.

The sea lion show at Flamingo Land is one of our most popular attractions.

We have a group of four male California sea lions; Clive, Merlin, Marvin and Miguel. 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, but it can also be used to check the animal’s health, welfare and build the trust between the animal and its keeper. The training of the animals in this way provides physical and mental stimulation and helps to promote natural behaviours it may express in the wild. 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.

California sea lions are found on the western coast of North America. Due to the large stretch of coastline they can be found in a variety of habitats and weather conditions. They would spend their time either swimming or hunting in the water, or on land on sandy beaches or rocks, particularly in the breeding season. They would hunt a mixture of seafood, but predominantly fish and squid. Because they are mammals, the sea lions have to hold their breath for their dives which last around three to nine minutes. While swimming in the water they would have to be alert for any sharks or killer whales.

The California sea lion is related to seals and walrus and there are five species of sea lion in total. Adult females and males differ in appearance as males grow to be a lot larger than the females, some also have a large amount of fur around their neck – similar to a lion’s mane, hence the name sea ‘lion’. Males would try to attract several females within their territory, however the females are free to roam around to different territories.

Sea lions can be very noisy and have a wide range of vocalisations.

The life span of a sea lion in the wild would be around 15 to 24 years, however in captivity they can live for a lot longer due to veterinary treatment, the lack of predators and not needing to hunt for their food.