Category: Carnivore

Location: Foot Safari

About California Sea Lions

Known for their intelligence, playful character and unique noises, California Sea Lions are charming coastal eared seals. As their name suggests, California sea lions come from the western coastline of North America. However, they can be found all the way from Mexico to as far north as Canada. 

These charming animals are adapted to live on land and in water, although the sea is a California Sea Lion’s main hunting ground. They spend the majority of their time on land and live in large groups, with females coming ashore in May to have their pups on breeding beaches. It’s here where the largest males fight and defend territories. 

You can find California Sea Lions at Knowsley on our Foot Safari and watch their underwater antics or see them play and relax in the outdoor pool. Each of our sea lions have terrific personalities. Arthur is the most intelligent and was born in 2004. Rodger and Louis are brothers and Roger joined us in 2014 from Belgium Zoo, followed by Louis in 2016 who came from Belfast Zoo. 

Sit down and observe them from behind the glass where they’ll either be lounging on the platforms or taking a dip! 

Name: California Sea Lion

Location: Western North America

Status: California sea lions are classed as least concern on the IUCN Red List of endangered species.

Threats: There are natural problems such as El Niño, that have an effect on food availability. Additionally, the pressures from the fish industries also bring them into conflict with humans.


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Fun facts about California Sea Lions

Brush up on your knowledge about our furry friends before your visit to Knowsley Safari! Check out these fun facts about California Sea Lions and listen out for their distinctive bark on the foot safari.


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    Californian sea lions are faster than any other type of sea lion or seal, they can swim at 25mph.

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    The rear flippers can rotate forwards, enabling them to move on land. They can also stand up and climb over obstacles.

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    A thick layer of blubber insulates them from the cold when they are in the sea.

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    They can stay underwater for up to 15 minutes before resurfacing for air.

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California Sea Lion facts - Your questions answered!

California Sea Lions are sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females differ in size, shape and colouration.

Males typically weigh up to 350 kg, whereas females can weigh up to 100 kg. 


It’s difficult to know exactly how many sea lions are in any given location as at any time, different individuals spend time in the water. The best indication of population size is by counting the babies as they are on land at the same time.

Their average lifespan in the wild is up to 30 years. 


Well, here’s the thing. The name for a group of sea lions changes depending on where they are. On land, they are known as a colony, whereas on water, they are referred to as a raft. They are called a rookery during breeding seasons and when females gather together in a male’s territory, they are called a harem.

California Sea Lions are amazing swimmers! They generally cruise between 11 and 18 mph, but can swim in burst speeds up to 25 mph. They can dive up to 180m and stay underwater for up to 15 minutes at a time. 


California Sea Lions are found on rocky and sandy beaches on the coast on islands and mainland shorelines. They also may inhabit coves, sandbars and tide pools among other structures. 


While California sea lions and seals are both pinnipeds, meaning ‘fin-footed’ in Latin, they have a range of noticeable difference:


  • Seals’ front feet are a lot smaller than the sea lion, who also possess thicker webbed flippers.

  • Sea lions have small flaps for ears, while ‘true’ seals don’t have external ears. 

  • Seals are a lot quieter than sea lions who bark opposed to seals’ grunts. 

  • Seals are better adapted to live in the water than on land - they are smaller and more aquadynamic than sea lions.

  • Seals are less sociable than sea lions. They usually come ashore together just once a year to mate. 


Yes. During the winter, male California sea lions migrate to feeding areas on the coasts of California, British Columbia, Oregon, Washington and Canada. Females and their pups, however, stay near the breeding colonies until the pups are weaned.

California sea lions are predators who obtain their food from the sea. They prey on over 50 species of fish and cephalopods, such as squid, octopus, anchovy, hake and herring. 


Where to see California Sea Lions at Knowsley Safari

You can find our California Sea Lions on our Foot Safari. Take a visit to their enclosure and observe them from behind the glass to see these majestic animals up close.

Conservation of California Sea Lions

California sea lion populations in the wild have been able to recover since their protection in the US and Mexico in the mid-20th century. 

There are natural problems such as El Niño, that have an effect on food availability. This is especially threatening to the animals when these climate cycles coincide with birthing times as the risk of starvation increases. They also face conflict with humans, due to pressures from the fish industries. 

The Galapagos sea lion is classed as endangered and the Japanese sea lion has been extinct since the 1970s due to commercial fishing.


Sea Lion Display 

If you’re a fan of our furry friends, make sure to time your trip around one of our daily sea lion shows. Be amazed by Arthur, Roger and Louis for an entertaining, educational display designed to wow adults and children alike! 

Our trainers will share lots of fantastic sea lion facts throughout the show and are happy to answer any burning questions at the end. 

Find out more about our incredible sea lion display here.


Sea Lion Experience 

Come face-to-face with our charming sea lions for an unforgettable 2-hour animal experience. Treat yourself or buy as a gift for an animal lover who will get the chance to work with the trainers and assist them during the feeding procedures. 

See them demonstrate their abilities up close and enjoy many other perks, such as free admission to the safari and extra discounts and benefits. 

Find out more about our unforgettable sea lion experience for adults aged 18 years and over here. 

Or, check out our Mini Sea Lion Experience, designed for younger adventures aged 10 years and over.


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