July 13, 2023

OH, BABY! Sea Lion Pup Born at the Pittsburgh Zoo

New baby is the fifth species to be born at the Zoo this year



The baby boom at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium continues with the birth of a male California sea lion pup on Friday, June 16.

The pup, named Kai, and mom, Kelilah, are doing well. The name Kai, selected by Zoo staff, means “sea” in the Hawaiian language and also incorporates letters from his mother’s name. Guests may sneak a peek at Kai along with his mom at the Zoo’s Kids Kingdom sea lion habitat.

Zoo staff have carefully monitored the pregnancy, birth, and first weeks of the pup, with the newborn nursing and beginning to get curious about the pool. Staff continue to watch the pair and are continuing to let the new family bond; once Kai and his mom get more acquainted, the
Zoo’s veterinary team and animal care specialists will conduct a more thorough examination of the new arrival.

“The Pittsburgh Zoo’s Animal Care team was with Kelilah throughout her journey, and we are happy to say the end result is a happy and healthy sea lion pup,” said Henry Kacprzyk, Curator of Reptiles and Kids Kingdom.

Kelilah, the newborn’s 10-year-old mom, was born at the Bronx Zoo and came to Pittsburgh in 2017. A total of six sea lions, including the pup’s dad, Seahawk, are now in residence at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Sea lion pups are well-developed at birth. Newborns are approximately 30 inches long and weigh between 10-20 pounds. They are born with their eyes open and can walk at 30 minutes old. The youngsters come into the world sporting a lanugo, a long, thick coat of baby hair that keeps them warm until they develop blubber. They are also able to vocalize, which helps mothers and pups recognize one another. A baby can identify its mother from among hundreds of gathered sea lions by her distinctive sound.

The baby sea lion joins two Western lowland gorillas, twin Amur leopard cubs, three nyala calves, and several pot-bellied seahorses born during 2023, the Zoo’s 125th anniversary year. Providing the highest quality animal care to its residents and creating a future for their counterparts in the wild is the Pittsburgh Zoo’s foundational commitment. The sea lion family’s progress can be followed on Zoo social media pages @pghzoo. To help support the future of the sea lions, as well as the zoo’s 8,000 other animals, visit pittsburghzoo.org/donations.