Milo – First California Sea Lion Born in The Bahamas Enjoys First Birthday
First birthdays are a cause for great celebration and no exception was made to mark the birthday of Milo, the first California Sea Lion born in The Bahamas at Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island.
With his marine mammal family, trainers, local children, and guests of Dolphin Encounters present, Milo enjoyed a first birthday party that included the usual highlights, cake and presents – with a marine mammal twist. Seated at his own table, Milo was presented with a cake with a fish “candle” that was eaten instead of blown out after being sung “Happy Birthday.” His gifts included toys appropriate for a baby sea lion and “fishsicles” – a combination of ice and frozen fish – which each sea lion received as a treat for Milo’s birthday.
“Milo’s first birthday is a big milestone in his life and for our marine mammal family,” said Robert Meister, Managing Director of Dolphin Encounters. “His birth is significant as it marks the beginning of a new generation of our sea lions. We are delighted that we could share this day with local children, visiting guests and of course our animal training staff, who take excellent care of Milo and all of our marine mammals.”
Born on June 23rd, 2008, weighing 16 pounds, he is the son of first-time mother Magnolia, known as Maggie, and first-time father Murray, both part of the marine mammal family at Dolphin Encounters. His birth was also the first time a California Sea Lion was born in The Bahamas. To mark the occasion he was named in honour of Milo B. Butler the first Governor General of The Bahamas. The robust one-year old is now 63 pounds.
“Milo has been a healthy, extremely playful baby sea lion since he was born,” said Kim Terrell, Director of Marine Mammals of Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island and Milo’s primary trainer. “We are very proud of him. His parents came to Dolphin Encounters in September of 2006 after hurricane Katrina had destroyed their home in Gulfport, Mississippi. Milo’s birth is a confirmation that the animals are well-adjusted to their environment and continue to thrive.”
“Milo is incredibly active and in his mind he is as big as his 580 pound father, Murray,” added Ms. Terrell. “He has no fear of his large all-natural habitat and explores every inch of it. He especially delights in capturing and playing with parrot fish. His natural curiosity and playfulness caused him to get in a bit of trouble with the older sea lions in the beginning, but they have all now accepted him into the group. He is also a very quick learner and to date has a repertoire of 40 behaviours.”
For Kim Terrell, Milo’s birth and first birthday has even more meaning. The former Director of Training at Marine Life Oceanarium and Marine Animal Productions in Gulfport Mississippi for fifteen years, Ms. Terrell has known Murray, Milo’s father, since he was born and knew Maggie’s relatives. She also followed their progress through Hurricane Katrina and was responsible for finding them their new home here at Dolphin Encounters in The Bahamas.
“Watching Milo being born just a year and a half after his parents came to live at Blue Lagoon Island and now celebrate his first year is emotional,” said Ms. Terrell. “It is our first generation of sea lions and it confirms that they have completely adapted to their new home and that is an extraordinary accomplishment.”
“Marine mammal breeding has uncertain outcomes, but we’ve had tremendous results with our dolphin calves, and with the birth of our first sea lion pup Milo,” adds Ms. Terrell. “Also, the fact that 11 of our 18 dolphins were successfully born to our facility speaks for itself. Dolphin Encounters now has first and second generation dolphins and now sea lions that were born on Blue Lagoon Island.”
Milo has certainly made his mark at Dolphin Encounters and is well-loved by the many schoolchildren that participate in the Dolphin Encounters – Project BEACH educational programmes as well as with guests that enjoy the Sea Lion Encounter programme that also reached the one year mark in May. The Sea Lion Encounter Program, the first of its kind in The Bahamas, is based on Dolphin Encounters’ highly successful and award-winning dolphin interactive programs and allows guests to meet California sea lions up-close in their pristine all-natural marine mammal habitat.
“Milo has brought such energy and joy to our entire Dolphin Encounters family,” said Mr. Meister. “This is our 20th Anniversary and Milo turning one year old this year has made it particularly special as we start a new chapter in our history.”
Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island is home to a family of 18 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and six California sea lions. Dolphin Encounters is a member of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA), the largest organisation of its kind. In 1997, the facility was accepted into the prestigious Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA), and in 2004 became an accredited member of the group, cementing its status as one of the top marine parks in the world. In 2003, Dolphin Encounters and Project B.E.A.C.H. received the prestigious Cacique Award, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism’s highest honour for excellence in tourism and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. The facility has also made the lifetime dream of many children come true by participating in the Make-A-Wish Foundation program.