The sea lion in the St Clair Salt Water Pool. Photo by
St Clair Salt Water Pool in Dunedin has reopened this
morning after a fun-loving young sea lion waddled through two
sets of automatic doors, a reception area and a cafe to "swim
Stunned St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool staff and about 100
swimmers couldn't believe what they were seeing, but swimmers
initially remained in the main pool after the laidback sea
lion decided to sun himself near the toddlers' pool. Everyone
left the water after the 1.5m animal took a dip
Department of Conservation conservation services manager
David Agnew said the sea lion arrived at the pool's entrance
in the morning and had a sleep.
"As the sun went around and it ended up in the shade it got
up to move and the [pool entrance] doors opened. It let
The sea lion snoozed by the toddlers' pool before staff
removed a fence and Agnew used two hockey sticks to coax the
sea lion back to the ocean but it did not want to go, Agnew
The 28°C temperature clearly pleased the sea lion, used to a
chilly 14°C average in the ocean, he said.
The New Zealand sea lion species, which is critically
endangered, is known not to fear people. Agnew had moved
three or four from homes or roads, but not public pools, in
eight years. "They're curious and will come up to you. They
Crowds were eventually moved out of sight to "bore" the sea
lion out of the pool, Agnew said.
"We did it so it was more quiet and boring for it. It was
looking around and thinking 'where is everyone?'. So it made
its own way out, back through the double doors, through the
cafe and reception and through the next double doors."
Then the sea lion realised the fun was over - and it wanted
back into the pool complex, Agnew said.
"It was quite hard case. We had to lock the doors. It was
trying to get back in. It made a big mess with oil from its
flippers on the windows."
Sea lions are intelligent and it was possible, having enjoyed
its previous visit, it would return to the pool. Staff worked
late last night to clean the pools for reopening this
morning, but a fence would be put at the entrance to teach
the sea lion the pool was not for him.
"We have to think of a name so we can ask him to leave and
he'll listen," said acting manager Nicola Smith.
- Herald on Sunday