Pittsburgh Zoo welcomes California sea lion pup


Latest addition to the baby boom as 4 other species were born at zoo this year

Adorable glimpse of mom Kelilah bonding with her sea lion baby, Kai. (Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Zoo)

Adorable glimpse of mom Kelilah bonding with her sea lion baby, Kai. (Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Zoo)

California sea lion fun facts

Here are some interesting facts about these curious marine mammals2:

  • Sea lions can walk on land and swim in water as they have wing-like front flippers with a bone structure similar to that in human arms and hands.
  • Their loud roars that mimic those of lions are where they get their name from.
  • Most sea lion pups are born in late June. They are well developed at birth with eyes that are open, and they can vocalize, and even swim a bit.
  • A few days after the pup's birth, the mother leaves the pup in the crowded rookery as she looks for food in the ocean. She produces a loud trumpeting vocalization, with the pup replying with a bleat. They communicate until the mother and pup find each other and the smell of her pup confirms she found the one.
  • They form dense aggregations of a thousand or more animals on land and also may travel, socialize, or rest at the surface in groups of 10 or more near haul-out locations.

Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium recently welcomed a male California sea lion pup named Kai born on Friday, June 16, 2023. According to an organizational release,1 the name Kai was chosen by zoo staff, and it means “sea” in the Hawaiian language and also includes letters from his mother’s name, Kelilah.

The zoo team have been monitoring the pregnancy, birth, and first weeks of the pup, with the newborn nursing and becoming interested in the pool. The pup and his 10-year-old mother appear to be doing well, and once the duo deepens their bond, the zoo veterinary team and animal care specialists will perform a more in-depth examination of Kai.

“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.1

Kelilah was Born at the Bronx Zoo and arrived at Pittsburgh in 2017. There are 6 sea lions, including Kai’s dad, Seahawk, that now call Pittsburgh Zoo home.

Other animals born this year at Pittsburgh Zoo include 2 western lowland gorillas, twin Amur leopard cubs, 3 nyala calves, and various pot-bellied seahorses.1


  1. Oh, baby! Sea lion pup born at the Pittsburgh Zoo. News release. Pittsburg Zoo. July 13, 2023. Accessed July 13, 2023. https://www.pittsburghzoo.org/news-sea-lion-pup-born-at-the-pittsburgh-zoo
  2. California sea lion. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Accessed July 13, 2023. https://seaworld.org/animals/facts/mammals/california-sea-lion
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