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Hyogo: ‘Linguistically Talented’ Sea Lion Gives Birth

Courtesy of Kinosaki Marine World
The Steller’s sea lion baby at Kinosaki Marine World in Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture

TOYOOKA, Hyogo — Aquarium star Hama, known as the most “linguistically advanced” Steller’s sea lion in Japan, has given birth to a baby, according to an aquarium in Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture.

The 13-year-old Hama, at Kinosaki Marine World, can understand as many as 50 different verbal instructions, also known as voice signs. In aquariums, the species is normally given instructions via gestures and hand signs, but Hama can respond to verbal cues.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hama “blows a kiss” after receiving a verbal instruction.

The aquarium announced that Hama gave birth to a male baby on July 4. It was a difficult delivery, taking about 13 hours after her water broke, but a baby was born, weighing about 22 kilograms and measuring about 90 centimeters in length.

After the birth, Hama was unable to produce milk, so the staff began feeding and taking care of the baby. The facility is not showing the baby publicly for the time being.

Hama was moved to Kinosaki Marine World from an aquarium in Fukushima Prefecture after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

“Hama has had a tumultuous life and was finally able to give birth,” said Masahiro Sasaki, 33, the aquarium keeper in charge of the mother and baby. “I hope the baby will grow up to be big and healthy.”