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OKC Zoo announces new marine mammal habitat expansion | Arts & Entertainment

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OKLAHOMA CITY – A leader in animal care and wellbeing, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden has announced plans for a new marine mammal habitat. Construction on the habitat will begin Spring 2023, which 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, OKC Zoo staff announced.

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.

OKC Zoo New Mammal Habitat pic #2

OKC Zoo will break ground on a state-of-the-art habitat for its beloved California sea lions and harbor seals in Spring 2023. The Zoo’s sea lion presentations will temporarily conclude on Sunday, October 30. Photo provided.

Wildlife fans interested in “sea”ing the marine mammals before they move are encouraged to attend the Zoo’s sea lion presentations occurring at 1 pm daily and 10 am 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. 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,” Lawson added. “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, the press release stated.

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, and a special event space.

Guests will experience an 8-foot tall underwater viewing window offering opportunities to watch sea lions and seals swim and glide through the water. Project plans 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,” Chappell added.

Presentations occur at 1 pm daily and 10 am 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.

The Oklahoma City Zoo is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily with the last entry no later than 4 pm Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free.

Connect to wildlife in a new way at BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise, which features 45+ life-sized animal statues made with almost two million toy bricks. BRICKLIVE is open daily during regular Zoo hours through Sunday, October 30. Purchase advance tickets for general Zoo admission and BRICKLIVE at

As a member of the Oklahoma City Zoo, guests enjoy free admission all year-long, plus many additional benefits and discounts, while supporting the Zoo’s animal family, education programming and conservation initiatives. Join or renew today at

To learn more, call 405-424-3344 or visit

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