The Birmingham Zoo has made the difficult decision to rehome California sea lions, Farley and Giovanni (Gio), who will move to the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts later this spring, in cooperation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) California Sea Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP). This move will be a part of the permanent closure of the Zoo’s Sea Lion Habitat.
Born in 2008, Farley and Gio joined the Birmingham Zoo family through a recommendation by the California Sea Lion SSP after their rescue by the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California in 2009. The Birmingham Zoo joins other zoos and aquariums around the world in participating in SSP programs that manage animal populations in zoos and related facilities, including providing standards for care, health and wellbeing.
Farley and Gio have been staff and visitor favorites, winning the smiles of everyone who comes to see them, just as the sea lions before them have for almost 50 years. “While we are very sad to see them go, we are excited about this great opportunity for them,” explains Mollye Nardi, Birmingham Zoo’s General Curator.
Built in 1974 through generous donations from Parisian Stores and the Alabama Zoological Society, the California sea lion habitat is no longer in keeping with zoological best practices and is in need of significant repairs. “Renovations to this habitat are not feasible and the only option would be to build a new facility which cannot happen soon enough to address the current issues,” explains Hollie Colahan, Birmingham Zoo Deputy Director.
“Our amazing staff cares deeply for these animals and has been dedicated to providing them with excellent care despite the many challenges posed by their outdated habitat,” added Scott Kayser, Zoological Manager of Predators.
Sea lions are social animals and live in colonies in the wild. The AZA-accredited New England Aquarium has a larger habitat and their own resident sea lions.
“We are thrilled that both of these requests were met, and they will be housed with other sea lions and cared for by an experienced team at another AZA-accredited facility.”