EDINBURGH Zoo is shutting its sea lion enclosure more than 75 years after the first animals were born there.
The last remaining sea lion at the zoo will be moving to Poland at the end of next month.
The enclosure will then be used as a new home by an endangered species of penguins.
Sofus, the six-year-old male Patagonian sea lion currently staying at the zoo, has been living alone after his female companion Miranda died two months ago.
It is hoped that the move to Poland will allow him to breed and father pups.
He will share the company of two female sea lions of breeding age, Kasia and Dolly, at his new home of Lodz Zoo at the beginning of February.
The sea lion pool is one of the Zoo’s oldest and most recognisable features. The first sea lion pups were born at the zoo in 1934. It is the first enclosure to greet visitors arriving at the zoo, which recently welcomed a pair of Giant Pandas.
Darren McGarry, Head of Animals at Edinburgh Zoo, said it would cost around £1 million for the zoo to build a new sea lion enclosure.
He said: “It is with a mixture of emotions that we’d like to announce that Sofus, the six year old Patagonian sea lion currently living at Edinburgh Zoo, will move to Lodz Zoo in Poland at the beginning of February.
“Miranda our female sea lion passed away a couple of months ago, so we’re delighted to be able to have found him a new home with two other females of breeding age, Kasia and Dolly. He will be much happier with companions and will hopefully father pups in the future.
“Our existing sea lion enclosure is also a very old construction that has come to the end of its lifespan. To create a modern facility is estimated to cost in the region of £1 million.
“The old enclosure is now all set to be transformed into a new home for our existing colony of Northern Rockhopper penguins. Our 19 birds will shortly be joined by 11 new birds from Vienna which will provide an influx of differing genetics.
“Facing a risk of extinction in the wild, we’re hoping new additions to the Rockhopper colony, and a new enclosure tailored to their needs, will be the boost our Northern Rockhoppers need to start breeding successfully.”
Male sea lion Sofus arrived at Edinburgh Zoo in June 2008 when he was three years old. He was born in Denmark at Aalborg Zoo.
Male Patagonian sea lions are characterised by a the thick “mane” around their necks. They also have very large heads, which along with their manes give them a lion-like appearance.
Patagonian sea lions eat a variety of fish, as well as squid and octopus, when they exist in the wild.
The sea lion enclosure is set to become a new home for an endangered species of Northern Rockhopper penguins at the zoo.
Northern Rockhopper penguins are the smallest of the crested species of penguin and have striking yellow crests on the heads and distinctive red eyes.
Populations of Northern Rockhopper penguins have been declining over the last century and are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as an endangered species, meaning they are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.