- Plan Your Visit
- A-Zoo Nursery
The Zoo’s sealion pool was originally built in the 1970s when the park first opened on its current site. Thirty eight years later, that same pool is still the biggest in the UK but has undergone an amazing transformation from drab concrete to a natural, modern and sealion-friendly environment with huge glass windows so that visitors can get up close to these vivacious and very popular animals. A 250-seater arena enables visitors of all ages to sit and enjoy their learning experience presented by the sealion trainers and our Education officers.
Californian sealions (zalophus californianus californianus), as their name suggests, originate from the west coast of North America. Males are much larger in size than females and can weigh up to 400kg. Females average around 90kg and usually have lighter coloured fur. Males also have a high bony crest on the top of their head. Sealions are pregnant for around 11 months, with females giving birth in late May and early June. The breeding season takes place just weeks later in July, with males throwing their weight around, fighting for areas of beach with plenty of females. Pups feed from their mothers for up to a year after birth. The adults’ diet consists of different fish and seafood with recorded dives of up to 274m.
These playful mammals can reach top speeds of 35 – 45 km per hour when chasing food or being hunted by predators such as killer whales and sharks. Sealions love to be challenged and to learn something new, so trainers here harness their natural behaviours to teach the visitors about these remarkable creatures. They are trained on a system of positive reinforcement which means that they are rewarded for following a trainer’s request, but never punished for choosing to ignore him or her. The behaviour is just repeated until followed successfully and then the reward, usually a piece of fish, is offered.
Active Oceans comprises not only the sealion arena, but also the fantastic penguin enclosure next door which opened in 2009. Raised above ground level, this natural pool and surround offers visitors a clear view through large glass windows of the penguins’ activity under the water. Appearing almost clumsy on land, these black and white favourites become streamlined super-swimmers underwater and love to get up close to their admirers through the glass. We have the only group of Magellanic penguins (spheniscus magellanicus) in the UK and these arrived by air from Madrid Zoo in early 2009.
Native to the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of South America and the Falkland Islands, these flightless birds can swim up to 15 miles per hours. They can also dive to depths of 90m in search of food such as squid or small fish. Penguins produce an oily substance from a gland near their tails which they spread over their feathers using their beaks to keep them waterproof, a behaviour referred to as “preening”.
Watch the video Penguins Swimming at Blackpool Zoo.