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Zoo announces plans for marine mammal habitat

The Oklahoma City Zoo is planning yet another big project.

Press release:



October 11, 2022

As a leader in animal care and wellbeing, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, is proud to announce plans for its next expansion project, a new marine mammal habitat. Construction will begin Spring 2023 on this premier animal habitat that will be home to the Zoo’s California sea lions, harbor seals and potentially other species. This additional space will provide an expanded and enriched habitat for these coastal animals while creating an exciting opportunity for guests to enjoy them from a fresh perspective.

While the habitat is being constructed, the Zoo’s sea lion family including males Xander, 19, and Cash, 5, and females Piper, 22, Addie, 22, Pearl, 19, Phoenix, 6, and Isla, 4, as well as harbor seals, Liberty, 20, and Bixby, 10, will all be temporarily relocated to other Association of Zoos and Aquariums member zoos and aquariums. The Zoo’s marine mammal caretakers will be shifting to work in other animal areas throughout this transition.

Wildlife fans interested in “sea”ing our marine mammals before they move are encouraged to attend the Zoo’s sea lion presentations occurring at 1 p.m. daily and 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays now through Sunday, October 30. Sea lion presentations will be a featured attraction at the new habitat that will resume once the project is completed in 2025. Additionally, the Zoo’s Wild Encounter experience with sea lions will conclude on Sunday, October 30.

“This is an exciting time of growth and transformation for the OKC Zoo and we are extremely grateful to our guests, members and the community for their continuous support,” said Dr. Dwight Lawson, Zoo executive director/CEO. “Guests will experience a renewed connection to these animals and their habitat as they discover this breathtaking new oasis. Our goal is to inform guests about the importance of protecting and maintaining healthy water sources for all living things while inspiring conservation action.”

This new habitat expansion will be located in the eastern section of the park overlooking Zoo Lake and encompass 3.5 acres including existing sites for the Zoo’s Noble Aquatic Center/Aquaticus, which has been closed to guests since 2017, and Pollinator Garden. With the Pollinator Garden being repurposed for this project, the Zoo is establishing additional pollinator gardens throughout its grounds to replenish habitat for native pollinators.

Design features of the improved marine mammal habitat include an outdoor amphitheater for educational presentations and caretaker chats, beach areas for the animals, “nose-to-nose” views of the sea lions and seals, an interactive sand area for kids, special event space and much more. Guests will be in awe of an 8-foot tall underwater viewing window offering opportunities to watch sea lions and seals swim and glide through the water. Project plans also include reusing and repurposing select materials from existing sites into the new habitat. Funding for the expansion was secured through the Zoo’s 1/8-of-a-cent sales tax accrual, approved by Oklahoma City citizens in 1990.

“We are thrilled to build a brand new, dynamic habitat space for our marine mammal family,” said Sierra Chappell, OKC Zoo’s assistant curator of marine mammals. “Our sea lions and seals will be welcomed back to an innovative space full of opportunities to enhance their overall wellbeing.”

Help send our pinnipeds off in style and make plans to attend one of the weekend sea lion presentations happening now through Sunday, October, 30. Presentations occur at 1 p.m. daily and 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays in the Zoo’s Sea Lion Presentation Stadium. Cost is $5 per person in addition to Zoo admission. Children two and under are free.


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