Two zoos are coming down the home stretch and nearing completion of their sea lion exhibits that will be ready for guests by the summer. The Georgia Aquarium and the Riverbanks Zoo of Columbia, South Carolina are almost ready to open brand new exhibits that will transport zoo guests to the piers of the California coast, where they will be able to connect with one of the ocean’s most charismatic marine mammals.
Set to open on March 31, Pier 225 at the Georgia Aquarium will be a state-of-the-art home for approximately 10 California sea lions. The $40 million exhibit will be taking the place of the former Georgia Explorer gallery, and is sponsored by SunTrust. The exhibit will have interactive components, and will include training demonstrations with the animals and educational talks about the threats facing sea lions in the wild.
Two unique aspects of the Pier 225 exhibit are Jupiter and Neptune – two sea lion pups that were rescued back in March 2015 when sea lion populations in California were plagued by an Unusual Mortality Event (UME). As marine mammal rescue centers struggled to help thousands of stranded sea lion pups back in 2015, the Georgia Aquarium sent several of its animal care experts to The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito to assist in the rescue efforts. Two of the stranded sea lion pups, now named Jupiter and Neptune, were deemed non-releasable by the government, and the Georgia Aquarium stepped up to provide these two young sea lions with permanent lifelong care. These two sea lions, which arrived at the Georgia Aquarium in August, will be joined by eight adults, several of which were aquarium residents before being relocated in order to make room for the dolphin expansion a few years ago.
The Riverbanks Zoo is also adding a sea lion exhibit, which will mark the completion of the zoo’s $36 million Destination: Riverbanks capital campaign. Primarily focused on renovating and adding excitement to the zoo’s entrance area, Destination: Riverbanks has previously involved the opening of new river otter and grizzly bear exhibits in 2015. This summer, the zoo will be opening Sea Lion Landing, which will emulate San Francisco’s Pier 39.
Highlights of the new exhibit will include underwater viewing areas from multiple angles into the exhibit, as well as shaded seating areas from which guests will be able to watch training presentations. Sea Lion Landing is expected to welcome its first guests in June, 2016.