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Sea Lion Colony Grows by Two at Shedd Aquarium

The newest additions, father and son, are behind-the-scenes acclimating to their new home and caretakers

September 01, 2022

A juvenile sea lion, like a miniature adult, sits on a mat next to a pool.

A recognized leader in animal care, Shedd Aquarium announced today that it has welcomed two California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) from Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington D.C. The new arrivals are behind-the-scenes of Grainger Sea Lion Cove at the aquarium getting more familiar with their new home and animal care team.

The first new arrival is a three-year-old sea lion named Charger, who was sired by Tanner – one of Shedd’s rescued sea lions from the Bonneville Dam – during his time at a zoological facility accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). AZA institutions cooperatively manage animal populations as part of shared species survival plans. The second addition is a three-month-old male pup sired by Charger during his time at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. This means Shedd is now home to three generations of sea lions under one roof, and the story demonstrates the broad impacts and legacy that a second chance at life can have for a single rescued animal like Tanner.

“These two newest additions kept us busy from the moment we arrived,” said Katie Majerowski, animal care specialist at Shedd Aquarium, who accompanied the sea lions on their trip to Chicago. “We’ve been monitoring them closely, day and night, to ensure a smooth transition to their new home. But ultimately, there is no more rewarding experience than seeing our sea lion colony grow and participating in their new adventure here at Shedd.”

Over the next few weeks and months, the animals will continue to get acquainted with new spaces, caretakers and potentially meet the other three sea lions at Shedd. Charger is around 230 pounds, and he shows early signs of confidence even as he explores his new environment and caretakers. The pup is nearly 30 pounds and has already learned to swim, engage with enrichment like toys and vocalize. Both sea lions will continue to grow, as Shedd’s largest and oldest sea lion Tanner is about 630 pounds.

“We have the capacity, social structure and decades of experience caring for sea lions to provide an ideal home for Charger and the new pup,” said Peggy Sloan, chief animal operations officer at Shedd Aquarium. “Shedd is unique because we have committed to an all-male population of sea lions – animals that can sometimes be challenging to care for long-term in zoos and aquariums because of their size. We got word that these sea lions were in need of a new home, and we are joyfully opening our doors and hearts to Charger and his pup.”

The pup, which does not currently have a name, is the youngest sea lion in the aquarium’s history. He came to Shedd at this age because he was rejected by his mom, which resulted in him needing to be hand-reared for the best chance at survival. Shedd’s animal care team will provide hands-on care for the pup to ensure he reaches key development milestones, which include monitoring his growth as he receives critical nutrients from formula until he is weaned and introduced to fish for the first time. Additional milestones will also involve socialization with the animal care team, introduction to other sea lions at the aquarium and participating in early training and enrichment sessions. 

Drawing on experience working with rescued sea lions both at Shedd and in the wild, this pup rearing experience continues to advance skills that Shedd’s Animal Response Team can use to assists our partners with sea lion rescue and release efforts along the Pacific coast.  

Shedd will continue to provide updates on the new arrivals’ development and when guests can expect to see them in the sea lion habitat. More information about sea lions at Shedd can be found on the aquarium’s website: https://www.sheddaquarium.org/animals/sea-lions.

VISUALS: For a behind-the-scenes look at the two new California sea lions at Shedd, find high-resolution photos and video here: https://personal.filesanywhere....
Photo Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Video Credit for pup: ©Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin
Video Credit for Charger: ©Shedd Aquarium/Gavin Wright

Initial photos of the male pup at about one-week old here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/g1ezulbtyecmg6a/AAAfeAl6R6nrs83b8IS4iZuya?dl=0. Credit: ©Roshan Patel/Smithsonian’s National Zoo