A $2.7 million makeover to the home of walruses, sea lions and other marine mammals at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium is complete.
The grand opening for Rocky Shores was Thursday, with Tacoma Rainiers’ mascot Rhubarb throwing out a first ceremonial fish to one of the sea lions.
The exhibit, which is more than three decades old, boasts several improvements:
▪ New underwater viewing windows so visitors can see walruses Dozer, Basilla, Joan and Kulu.
▪ A repaired 125,500-gallon pool for the walruses.
▪ A new home for California sea lions and harbor seals.
▪ Covered stadium-style seating for listening to keeper talks.
▪ Graphics and murals telling the story of the interconnectedness of humans and the sea with ideas about how visitors can help care for the ocean and the animals that live in it.
▪ A new pathway to the Arctic Tundra home of polar bears that accommodates strollers and wheelchairs.
▪ Updates to the water filtration and animal life-support systems for the marine mammals.
Karen Povey, the zoo’s conservation engagement manager, said visitors will be blown away by the up-close views of the animals.
“Now, we’ve put a sharpened focus on what these animals can teach us and how our actions affect the ocean and shore we share with them,” she said.
Rocky Shores is the first major project at the zoo completed with money from a $198 million Metro Parks Tacoma bond issue approved in 2014.
Next up will be the Pacific Seas Aquarium, which is to open in summer 2018.
When Rocky Shores opened in 1982, it won awards but over the years the number of zoo visitors greatly increased, which meant the exhibit needed to accommodate larger crowds.
Zoo attendance shot up to 581,000 in 2015 from 300,000 in 1982.
“Zoo visitors have been fortunate to experience marine mammals and sea birds up close at Rocky Shores for 35 years,” said Andrea Smith, president of Metro Parks board. “This renovation ensures that more generations of Tacoma residents will enjoy viewing and learning about these animals.”
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653