OKLAHOMA CITY — A leader in animal care and welfare, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden has announced plans for a new marine mammal habitat. Construction of the habitat will begin in the spring of 2023, which will house California sea lions, harbor seals and potentially other zoo species.
This additional space will provide an expanded and enriched habitat for these coastal animals while creating an exciting opportunity for guests to enjoy them from a new perspective, OKC Zoo staff announced.
During habitat construction, the zoo’s family of sea lions, including males Xander, 19, and Cash, 5, and females Piper, 22, Addie, 22, Pearl, 19, Phoenix, 6, and Isla, 4, as well as Harbor Seals, Liberty, 20, and Bixby, 10, will all be temporarily relocated to other zoos and aquariums that are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The zoo’s marine mammal keepers will move to work in other animal areas throughout this transition.
Wildlife enthusiasts interested in “sea” marine mammals before they travel are encouraged to attend the zoo’s sea lion presentations which take place at 1 p.m. daily and 10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays until to Sunday October 30.
Sea lion displays will be a star attraction of the new habitat which will resume once the project is completed in 2025. The zoo’s Wild Encounter experience with sea lions will end on Sunday, October 30.
“This is an exciting time of growth and transformation for the OKC Zoo and we are extremely grateful to our guests, members and community for their continued support,” said Dr. Dwight Lawson, Executive Director/CEO of the Zoo.
“Guests will experience a renewed connection with these animals and their habitat as they experience this breathtaking new oasis,” Lawson added. “Our goal is to educate customers about the importance of protecting and maintaining healthy water sources for all living things while inspiring conservation action.”
This new habitat expansion will be located in the eastern part of the park overlooking Zoo Lake and will encompass 3.5 acres, including the existing sites of the zoo’s Noble Aquatic Center/Aquaticus, which has been closed to visitors since 2017, and the Pollinator Garden.
With the pollinator garden being repurposed for this project, the zoo is establishing additional pollinator gardens on its grounds to replenish habitat for native pollinators, the press release said.
Design features of the enhanced marine mammal habitat include an outdoor amphitheater for educational presentations and discussions with custodians, animal beaches, “nose-to-nose” views of sea lions and seals, an area interactive sand pit for kids and a special event space area.
Guests will experience an 8-foot-tall underwater viewing window offering the chance to watch sea lions and seals swim and glide through the water. Plans for the project include the reuse and repurposing of some materials from the existing sites into the new habitat.
Funding for the expansion was secured through the zoo’s 1/8 cent sales tax, approved by the citizens of Oklahoma City in 1990.
“We are thrilled to build a whole new vibrant habitat space for our family of marine mammals,” said Sierra Chappell, assistant curator of marine mammals at the OKC Zoo. “Our sea lions and seals will be welcomed back into an innovative space full of opportunities to improve their overall well-being.
“Help dispatch our pinnipeds in style and plan to attend one of the weekend sea lion presentations which run until Sunday October 30th,” Chappell added.
Presentations are held at 1 p.m. daily and 10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays in the zoo’s sea lion display stadium. The cost is $5 per person plus admission to the zoo. Children two and under are free.
The Oklahoma City Zoo is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with last entry no later than 4 p.m. Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older. Children two and under are admitted free.
Connect with wildlife in a new way at BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise, featuring over 45 life-size animal statues made with nearly two million toy bricks. BRICKLIVE is open daily during normal zoo hours until Sunday, October 30. Purchase tickets in advance for General Admission to the Zoo and BRICKLIVE at okczoo.org/tickets.
As a member of the Oklahoma City Zoo, guests enjoy free admission year-round, plus many additional benefits and discounts, while supporting the zoo’s animal family, educational programs, and conservation initiatives. . Join or renew today at okczoo.org/membership.
To learn more, call 405-424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.