6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Somerset Life today CLICK HERE

Baby seal makes a splash at Bristol Zoo Gardens

PUBLISHED: 10:55 07 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:30 20 February 2013

Photo by Bob Pitchford

Photo by Bob Pitchford

A baby seal is making a splash at Bristol Zoo Gardens. At just over three weeks old the South American fur seal pup is already proving a hit with visitors and can be seen basking on the rocks soaking up the sun, next to its mother.

A baby seal is making a splash at Bristol Zoo Gardens. At just over three weeks old the South American fur seal pup is already proving a hit with visitors and can be seen basking on the rocks soaking up the sun, next to its mother.

The pup is still very small, weighing around 6kgs (13lbs), and is only just learning how to swim by copying its mother, Mary. Keepers have not yet named the pup as it is too young to be sexed.

The new arrival joins the six other fur seals at home in the Zoos Seal & Penguin Coasts exhibit Otari the bull seal; adult female cows, Mary and Nina; and youngsters Quito and Toro, born in 2007, and Pablo, born last year.

Keeper Mathew Richards said: The pup is doing very well; suckling regularly and putting on weight, which is great news. It may be small but it is already very vocal and inquisitive and always wants to play with mum, Mary.

He added: Over the past week the pup has been learning how to swim and has started putting its head underneath the water, so it wont be long before he gets the hang of it.

The pup will stay close to its mother for now, but will soon start becoming more adventurous, exploring its surroundings. It will feed from its mother until it is six to nine months old, and will then be fed fish that seals might normally find in the wild, such as sprats and herring.

Pups are born after a gestation period of around nine months. Bulls grow to an average length of 1.9m (6ft) and up to 150kg (330lb) in weight, cows being considerably smaller at 1.4m (4.6ft) and a weight of only 50kg (110lb).

Like all fur seals, South American fur seals used to be hunted for their warm fur, leather and oil. In 1991 hunting was banned but other threats still face the species, such as the reduction of fish stocks that the seals depend on, as a result of large-scale industrial fishing. Their natural enemies in the open ocean are sharks and killer whales.

Fur seals have double-layer coats. One to keep them warm and another to keep them dry. The outside coat consists of long guard hairs, and beneath these hairs there are much smaller, finer hairs that help insulate the skin and keep the seal warm in the water.

Bristol Zoos Seal & Penguin Coasts was opened by Dr David Bellamy in 1999. It was designed to mimic seals natural habitats, containing saltwater kept clean using a sophisticated, chemical-free filtration unit. An underwater viewing tunnel means visitors can observe the seals from above or below the water.

For more information about Bristol Zoo Gardens visit the zoo website at www.bristolzoo.org.uk or phone 0117 974 7300.

Photos by Bob Pitchford

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Somerset Life