"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. First the animals were allowed to see the crates. Then they smelled them. Eventually they put a flipper or two in. Then trainers worked with them to enter the crates and spend time comfortably inside.
The new habitat in Tulsa will be larger and more up-to-date, Connolly said.
"The present facility is just very outdated,” he said. "We’re hoping to have a much more naturalistic exhibit that will help enhance the quality of life for our animals and be great for our guests.”
The sea lion area is 50 or 60 years old, Connolly said. The new exhibit will have salt water, not fresh water. Guests will have an underwater viewing area to watch the sea lions swim. And the area will be larger, allowing Tulsa officials to bring in more sea lions.
Briney and Dorsey will be quarantined when they arrive in Oklahoma City, Assistant Zoo Director Brian Aucone said.
Sea lions are social animals, and they intermingle often in the wild, Aucone said. So the Oklahoma City and Tulsa sea lions likely will adjust quickly to one another. The introduction of new animals will be a good opportunity for all the sea lions.
The Tulsa sea lions normally perform a demonstration, but they have been given this year off because of the impending move. They won’t be part of the performing group in Oklahoma City because demonstration training can take several years, Aucone said.