An 800-pound California sea lion is expected to make a big splash Wednesday (July 27) during his public debut at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
Chinook, 16, lived in Washington when he was younger, but was captured and moved to an aquatic facility in California to help save endangered salmon in the Columbia River.
Now, he’ll be making his home in Tacoma and splitting pool time at the Rocky Shores exhibit with Pacific walruses Joan and Basilla.
Two other sea lions — Neah and Matia, both 12 years old and 180 pounds — will join Chinook later this year. They were rescued as orphans.
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None of the three can be released into the wild.
Chinook is expected to swim in the exhibit’s main pool 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, but the schedule could change, depending on the animals’ needs, according to the zoo.
He has a brand on his back put there by National Marine Fisheries officials who were studying marine mammals and trying to figure out which sea lions were depleting stocks of salmon.
Zoo officials said they’re excited to introduce visitors to California sea lions, which live in the waters from Alaska to Mexico.
“This is an animal that we can glimpse off of Owen Beach and out in Commencement Bay,” staff biologist Mandy Betz said. “We share our shores with sea lions and hope that their presence at the zoo will inspire our visitors to help protect Puget Sound.”
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653