Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s Sea Lion Cove has two new occupants, Big Sur and Wishbone, who will make their public debut on Friday.
Both sea lions come from Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. Two-year-old Big Sur is on a breeding loan. Wishbone, 7, was discovered stranded on a beach in Marin County. Wishbone, who shares his name with a Catalina Island hiking trail, is blind.
Big Sur and Wishbone share the exhibit with two female California sea lions, Avila and Catalina, two female harbor seals, Ariel and Jetta, and two male brown pelicans, Monte and Cruz.
Fresno Chaffee Zoo previously was home to a blind sea lion, Pismo, which died last year.
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“I think Six Flags felt extremely comfortable sending him to us because we have experience with a blind sea lion,” said zoo director Scott Barton.
Pismo responded to “auditory cues” for training, such as baby rattles.
“They can do pretty darn well, even being blind,” he said.
Sea Lion Cove is designed for up to a dozen seals and sea lions, which means more sea lions could be added through breeding, Barton said.
“If we did (breed sea lions), we could keep the youngsters and it could be a lot of fun,” he said.
The zoo, he said, works with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Marine Mammal Center to house seals or sea lions that are unable to return to the ocean.
The California sea lion, Zalophus californianus, is a sea mammal with a range extending from the subarctic to tropical waters of the global ocean in both the northern and southern hemispheres, with the notable exception of the northern Atlantic Ocean. California sea lions have an average lifespan of 20 to 30 years. A male California sea lion weighs, on average, about 660 pounds and is about 8 feet long, while the female sea lion weighs about 220 pounds and is 6 feet long.