Photographer captures once-in-a-lifetime image of adorable sea lion pup performing acrobatics and playing with starfish

They say don’t play with your food, but this excitable sea lion was more than happy to break the rule to show off its acrobatic skills to a nearby diver.

The amazing shot underwater photographer Pedro Carrillo Montero was able to capture shows the happy-looking sea lion upside-down, a starfish between its jaws as the animal glides through the water.

Pic by Pedro Carrillo / Caters

Taken in March 2017, at Islote Los Lobos, part of the Canary Islands, the image only recently started gaining attention when Pedro placed it on photography sites and submitted it for awards.

The small islet at Islote Los Lobos is part of an area that, in 1995, UNESCO declared part of a Biosphere Reserve, protecting the large sea lion colony that resides there.

The California sea lion in the photograph was only a pup, Pedro, 43, said, but it was more than confident enough to play with the star fish in front of the photographer.

Pic by Pedro Carrillo / Caters

Pedro, from Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain, said: “They usually play with sea stars, gorgonians and even stones.

“They will take them, swim towards the surface and release their involuntary play mates just to quickly dive and grab them again before they hit the bottom.

Pic by Pedro Carrillo / Caters

“Their attention span is short, though, and usually after a couple of cycles they will lose interest and look for something else.

“I think diving with sea lions is a combination of unpredictability and fun, and that’s hard to beat for an underwater photographer.

“If you add on top that they are irresistible cute for the public, you have a great cocktail.

Pic by Pedro Carrillo / Caters

“Many of my most beloved photos, and successful in underwater photography competitions, have been taken at Islote Los Lobos.”