In September, Shedd’s sea lion colony grew by two as we excitedly welcomed Charger, a 3-year-old sea lion, and Kenney, his 3-month-old pup, from Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, an accredited Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) partner.
An animal move takes careful planning and preparation, and many hours of time, research and expertise invested from dozens of animal care and animal health professionals to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the animals and all involved.
Follow the sea lions’ journey from Washington, D.C. to Chicago through the eyes of Shedd Animal Care Specialist Katie Majerowski, who was with Charger and Kenney every step of the way.
Katie Majerowski and other Shedd team members welcome Kenney.
How do you move two sea lions across the country?
Good question! It takes a village, and I was grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the process. In late August, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet our newest members of the colony, learn from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute team, drive with Kenney and Charger and welcome them to the Shedd family.
I arrived at Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute on a Friday, a few days before our scheduled journey the following Tuesday back to Chicago. I started by shadowing the National Zoo team and learning all I could about each animal.
Learning their comforts, behaviors, favorite enrichment and more, as well as any new techniques or best practices used by the National Zoo team, would allow me to teach our team at Shedd how to best provide care for the newest sea lions that is consistent with what they were used to at the zoo.
I met the pup, Kenney, first during a play session and I couldn’t believe how small he was. He was about 33 pounds at that time, which is so different than what I am used to working with Cruz and Laguna at 300 pounds, and our biggest sea lion Tanner who is about 600 pounds! While this is the youngest sea lion pup in Shedd's history, I knew our team would be up for the challenge and provide our top-quality care.
Over the weekend, I was happy to watch and learn from our colleagues as they bottle fed Kenney and led training sessions with Charger. I was excited to see that Charger was a quick learner and enthusiastically participated in training sessions.
On Monday morning, more of our Shedd animal care and animal health team members who would be joining me on the journey arrived in Washington, D.C. The Shedd and National Zoo teams met as a large group to discuss our plans in detail for the next day.
On transport day, both Kenney and Charger made it into their transports early in the morning and into two separate vehicles for the 12-hour drive. Both vehicles were staffed with animal care professionals and veterinarians who were constantly monitoring Charger and the pup along the way.
It is natural for sea lions to be out of the water for long periods of time as they often haul out to sleep, but we made sure to keep them cool with ice and misted with cold water. They were both offered food throughout the journey; warming up bottles of sea lion pup formula during stops on a road trip was a new experience for me!
We made it to Shedd late Tuesday evening and were so happy for Charger and Kenney to have gotten home safe and sound. Since their arrival, my team and I have been working hard to ensure that they acclimate nicely to their new surroundings and getting to know us, building invaluable relationships with them just like we have with Tanner, Cruz and Laguna.
One of my favorite parts of the entire trip was learning from the National Zoo staff and “talking shop” with our colleagues. They were incredibly kind, generous and welcoming. I can’t say it enough how exciting it is to now have three generations of sea lions under one roof. I am so grateful to have been a part of the transport process, my first after 8 years at Shedd, and I can’t wait to see how Charger and Kenney grow and develop!