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Oklahoma zoos plan to reunite two sea lion brothers

CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: July 6, 2009 at 12:43 am •  Published: July 6, 2009
Moe is about to meet the little brother he never knew he had.

The 535-pound sea lion at the Oklahoma City Zoo soon will be introduced to Dorsey, his little brother from the Tulsa Zoo.

In the coming weeks, two sea lions from the Tulsa Zoo will be moved to the Oklahoma City Zoo.

The sea lions will stay in the capital for about two years while a new $5 million sea lion habitat is built in place of the old exhibit, said Mike Connolly, assistant curator at the Tulsa Zoo.

Moe and Dorsey probably won’t recognize each other, Connolly said. Moe moved to Oklahoma City before Dorsey was born. But they’ll probably be interested in one another and the other new sea lions.

"There will be a lot of new stimulus,” Connolly said. "There will be a lot of new experiences.”

Zoo staff planned to have the sea lions moved by now, but high heat indexes in the past weeks have delayed the move, Connolly said. And officials in Oklahoma City and Tulsa have been working to find a good date for both institutions.

The goal is to move them this month, Connolly said. But the sea lion exhibit design is still in the works, so the timeline isn’t too strict, he said.

Preparing mammals for the journey
The two sea lions at the Tulsa Zoo are Dorsey, a 16-year-old male, and Briney, a 23-year-old female.

Dorsey was born at the Tulsa Zoo, and Briney has lived there almost her whole life.

The move will be a significant change for the pair, but Connolly said zookeepers are working to make the transition easier.

The sea lions will be moved in crates loaded onto an air-conditioned truck or van, Connolly said.

Sea lions and other marine mammals don’t do well with sedatives, Connolly said, so zookeepers looked for another way to get the big animals into travel crates.

"It’s really becoming much more of a trend,” he said, "because instead of going in and darting these animals or sedating them, you can get an animal to respond favorably, and it just makes it a lot less stressful.”

So for the past several months, trainers have been crate training the sea lions, Connolly said.

About Sea Lions
→Weight: 440 to 2,200 pounds for males and 110 to 600 pounds for females

→Lifespan: 20 to 30 years

→Diet: Fish, squid, crabs and clams

→Swimming: Can go up to 25 mph and stay underwater for up to 40 minutes

→Terminology: Groups are called "rafts,” and young are called "pups”

Source: San Diego Zoo


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