It’s all happy families for the seals at Living Coasts. The extended family of South American fur seals is together for the first time in over six months. Up to now, the latest pup to be born at Torquay’s coastal zoo, Tamar, has been too small to be with the others.
South American fur seal Grace gave birth at Living Coasts in May. Living Coasts Head Keeper Lois Rowell explained: “We separated them when Grace took herself off to give birth in the peace and quiet of the off-show area.
“We kept them separate while Grace bonded with her pup Tamar. We wanted to make sure he was suckling and gaining weight – and we also needed to know he had learnt how to swim and was generally more active before he encountered his very boisterous older sister Gemini and his very good-natured but large and slightly clumsy dad Karel!”
Along with mother Grace and father Karel (pronounced Carl), Tamar has young females Gemini (born in 2014) and Tunanta (the first seal pup to be born there) to play with. Gemini is Tamar’s full sister, while Tunanta is unrelated. When Tamar was ready, the keepers introduced him to Gemini. Lois again: “That went well – the two youngsters enjoyed playing together while Grace enjoyed a bit of peace and quiet without Tamar!”
Next, they mixed in older female Tunanta. Introducing animals to one another is always a tense time, as individuals – just like people – do not always get on. “Grace was a little unsettled at first because she is a very protective mum and would not allow Tunanta to approach Tamar,” said Lois. “But by the third session together Grace was fine with Tunanta and so we introduced Karel. He didn’t notice at first, but when he did see Grace he went to greet her. That first time, she told him off and he went off and had a sleep on the rock!”
It only took a couple of hours for Karel and Tamar to get used to each other. Lois: “Karel doesn’t take much notice of Tamar and Tamar spends much of his time playing with Gemini and Tunanta and suckling from Grace or curled up beside her asleep!”
Operations Manager Clare Rugg added: “They are having a great time – even Karel has been playing with the youngsters! Grace has chosen which rock she is using for her and the pup and the others are all using all three pools, which is great for visitors.”
Tamar was named by local business Tamar Telecommunications. Managing Director Jamie Christoforou made a successful bid for the right to name the pup at Paignton Zoo’s charity adoption auction. For more information go to www.livingcoasts.org.uk or ring 01803 202470.