Alaska SeaLife Center names new Steller sea lion pup
The Alaska SeaLife Center’s newest Steller sea lion pup finally has a name: Forrest.
Staff, interns and volunteers voted on the name Thursday night. It was between Forrest, Barnabas or Hook. Some staffers said they voted for Forrest because his father’s name is Woody.
The month-and-a-half-old pup isn’t just adorable; he’s also an integral part of the center’s breeding program and maternal investment research.
“What that means is we’re trying to understand the cost of a mother sea lion having her pups,” explained marine mammal scientist Lori Polasek. “That’s important because females are so important for population recovery and Steller sea lions are an endangered species.”
Forrest was born July 20, 2014, and is the second pup for 14-year-old Eden and Woody, the center’s 21-year-old breeding male.
His sister Eleanor, nicknamed Ellie, was born last summer and was the first Steller sea lion born in captivity in about 25 years.
“It’s very crucial we were able to get a second year because animals in the wild don’t just have a pup and then they’re done. They have multiple pups. So it’s important to look at Eden’s progress and her energetic expenditure having a second pup while still nursing her first pup,” Polasek said.
“[I have] no relation to Woody,” laughed mammal curator Derek Woodie, who gets to be with Forrest behind the scenes. He worked with Ellie last year and is surprised about how different the two are.
“He’s larger, more outgoing. He’s a little more difficult as a child right now. He’s just one of those kids that does what he wants to,” Woodie smiled.
On Friday, staff introduced Forrest to the main exhibit for the first time.
Woodie escorted him into the enclosure where Eden was waiting. She seamlessly made her way from the rocks to the water, but Forrest was a little hesitant.
“You can see he’s not used to the stairs,” a staff member laughed.
Visitors cheered as he neared the water and kind of somersaulted in with a small splash.
“Eden is a very attentive mom, so she was right there with him. He’s swimming fantastic and already taking some preliminary dives underwater — we’re really pleased,” Polasek said.
Forrest will be on display more often as he gets older and more acquainted with the exhibit.
Polasek said hopefully they’ll have another pup to debut next summer. Eden and Woody mated again this year and staff are still waiting to determine if she’s pregnant.
Behind-the-scenes video shot with permission under NMFS Permit No. 18534
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