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Ocean Park Welcomes Northern Sea Lions and Snowy Owls to Hong Kong Largest Eared Seal Species to Wow Guests in July with Massive Size and Grumbling Sounds Snowy Owl in Hong Kong for First Time to Showca

2012-06-12

(Hong Kong – 12 June 2012) Ocean Park today unveiled two arctic species, the snowy owl and the northern sea lion, which will meet the public when Polar Adventure opens in July. Snowy owls have never been displayed in Hong Kong before. The four owls introduced to Ocean Park are all around one year old. The newly arrived northern sea lion is the largest species of eared seals, at over three times the size of their sea lion cousins currently at Ocean Park. They also distinguish themselves by displaying a loud grumbling sound, rather than the barking sound of the more common species of sea lions.

The four northern sea lions are two mother-son pairs: Ai and Ashita, as well as Beach and Mirai. The males can eventually grow to weigh 1,200kg while the females can reach 350kg. Being the world's largest eared seal species, northern sea lions are more than three times the size of typical California sea lions commonly found in aquariums and theme parks. Also featured in the soon-to-open Polar Adventure are two male and two female snowy owls from the Netherlands and Belgium respectively. All of these new animal ambassadors are captive born.

The largest eared seal to display elegant swimming movements at Polar Adventure 
Mr. Phillip Wong, Curator of the Polar Adventure, said, “The grumbling sound, unique to northern sea lions, is a natural form of communication between members of this species. To enable the sea lions to exhibit their natural behaviour, we have created rocky rookeries for them to relax while out of the water as well as a 6 metre deep pool for them to explore with their diving skills. Guests can even enjoy up-close views of their elegant swimming movements through large viewing windows above and below water.”

To ensure the best possible care for the sea lions, Ocean Park previously sent its marine mammal trainers to Japan where the sea lions were residing to learn about their care and breeding of northern sea lions in general, along with their habits and dietary preferences of the four animals destined for Hong Kong. Park staff will also be training the sea lions so that they can participate more readily in regular health checks.

Snowy owls in Hong Kong for first time to showcase gliding skills 
The snowy owls’ stoic silence stands in stark contrast to northern sea lions’ grumbles and growls. Mr. Howard Chuk, Senior Curator for Terrestrial Life Sciences, said, “Female snowy owls, like birds in general, are larger in size than male ones. When snowy owls grow older, the male ones tend to become completely white, but the female ones would retain some dusky spotting. They are currently fed a diet of chilled mice and quail meat, as well as beef.”

Ocean Park has specifically provided a high perch in the enclosure, enabling guests a chance to see the birds spread their wings as they swoop down towards the trainer below. The owls will also take part in regularly scheduled meet-and-greet sessions with guests. The enclosure features a wide variety of branches and rocks for the snowy owls to build their nests when they reach sexual maturity.

Immersive environment enables animal ambassadors to exhibit natural behaviour 
Ms. Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director of Zoological Operations and Education of Ocean Park, said, “We have created an immersive environment that enables the different species to exhibit their natural behaviours, whether diving, hunting, relaxing or nest building, while allowing guests up-close and unique perspectives of these animal ambassadors. We hope that through presenting these adorable animals, the public will better appreciate the importance in conservation for these polar animals and their natural habitats. For instance, snowy owls are under threat today because the frozen tundra, where they nest and raise their young, is slowing disappearing as a result of climate changes.”

Ms. Gendron added, “We will explore opportunities of breeding the northern sea lions and snowy owls in the future to grow the population at the Park.”

The northern sea lions and snowy owls will join spotted seals, Pacific walruses and Arctic foxes at the North Pole Encounter to spread their important conservation messages on the impact of global climate change on arctic wildlife and habitats. Additionally, Polar Adventure’s South Pole Spectacular will feature three different species of penguins, namely Gentoos, Kings, and Rockhoppers. Guests can also visit Tuxedos, a restaurant that offers a panoramic view of the penguin pool area. As well, the entire family can enjoy a unique ride on the Arctic Blast* roller coaster at the Polar Adventure.

* The minimum height requirement for riders of the Arctic Blast is 100cm; and children 100-120cm in height must be accompanied by an adult.