Photo By Tad Motoyama

LA Zoo Sea Lion Male 

After nearly eight years, a California sea lion is back at the Los Angeles Zoo’s Sea Life Cliffs. Zoo guests are now greeted with the boisterous barking of a nearly 700-pound, male California sea lion named Buddy, a vocalization so loud it can be heard echoing throughout the park. The blind adult male, estimated to be around 10 years old, arrived at the L.A. Zoo on May 24 after being rescued and rehabilitated by the Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles (MMCC LA).

“Buddy has definitely brought a new sense of excitement to Sea Life Cliffs,” said Jennifer Kuypers, Senior Animal Keeper at the Los Angeles Zoo. “Being from the wild, he came to us without any trained behaviors, and as we work with him we’re learning about him as an individual. Buddy is a confident, smart sea lion who is adapting well to his new environment.”

Buddy was found loitering in populated areas in Manhattan Beach, malnourished, emaciated, and blind. Due to his blindness, he was unable to hunt, forage, and defend himself. He was rescued on July 15, 2016 and brought to the MMCC LA where their veterinary and husbandry staff was able to get him to feed and gain weight again. He remained at the MMCC LA for almost 10 months until it was time to find him a permanent home.

“This California sea lion was deemed non-releasable due to his injuries and blindness,” said Jeff Cozad, Executive Director of the Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles (MMCC LA). “That’s when the Los Angeles Zoo stepped in. They felt our patient would enhance their Sea Life Cliffs exhibit and found him to be a perfect fit. We couldn’t be happier that he was placed locally where MMCC LA visitors and volunteers can still visit him often.”

Over the past three months, Buddy has quickly settled into his new home at Sea Life Cliffs, bonding with the L.A. Zoo animal care staff and getting to know his new neighbors, a Pacific harbor seal named Ziggy and two Atlantic harbor seals named Mysty and Alfred. It’s common in zoo’s for sea lions and harbor seals to be housed in the same habitat because they share the same environment in the wild. But, unlike harbor seals, sea lions tend to be more active and vocal. Buddy is faster, more mobile, and communicates through a series of vocalizations including barks, growls, and grunts, which can mean a variety of different meanings ranging from excitement to aggression.

The addition of Buddy to Sea Life Cliffs will allow Zoo guests the unique opportunity to learn more about this massive pinniped that is native to their own backyard, the beaches of Southern California. This is the second animal the Zoo has welcomed to Sea Life Cliffs in the last year that was rescued off the coast of a Southern California beach town. Ziggy, an 18-month old female Pacific harbor seal made her home at the L.A. Zoo on November 1, 2016 after being rescued and rehabilitated by the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Beach. 

California sea lions are found from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to the southern tip of Baja California in Mexico. They are known for their intelligence, playfulness, and noisy barking. Their color ranges from chocolate brown in males to a lighter, golden brown in females. Males can reach 850 pounds and up to seven feet in length. Females grow to around 220 pounds and up to six feet in length. California sea lions are very social animals, and groups often rest closely packed together on land or float together on the ocean’s surface. When diving deep in the wild, California sea lions can slow their heart rates to allow them to remain underwater for nearly ten minutes before surfacing to breathe. This ability gives them an edge in the pursuit of the fish, squid, and shellfish that make up their primary diet.

The L.A. Zoo plans to bring in additional California sea lions to add to the group in the near future. In the meantime, Buddy, along with Ziggy, Mysty, and Alfred can be seen swimming together at Sea Life Cliffs daily.