Beloved California sea lions set to leave Utica Zoo

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UTICA — The Utica Zoo has recently recognized that its California Sea Lion exhibit did not provide an ideal habitat for residents, Porter and Munchkin, according to a release.

So, changes are being made.

“Our male, Porter, weighs approximately 685 pounds, while the smaller female, Munchkin, weighs 240 pounds. The pool, built to 1986 standards at approximately 650 sq. ft., is not optimal for the two animals to freely exercise, nor for the expression of as many natural behaviors as a more complex environment will,” a statement reads, continuing, “Exhibit concerns were confirmed during the Zoo’s 2018 accreditation process by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The exhibit was not in line with modern zoological practices and did not meet AZA standards.”

“It would have to be modified or decommissioned if the Zoo was to maintain its accreditation. The cost to renovate and maintain the exhibit ($8-10 million in 2018) was not feasible for the Zoo, and the well-being of our sea lions remained paramount. The difficult decision and steps to work within the network of AZA institutions to find Porter and Munchkin new homes began,” the statement adds.

On Monday, Porter will head to the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey, and will remain until transfer plans are finalized.

Munchkin will remain at the Zoo until her transfer plans are finalized, which may be a few more weeks. 

While Porter and Munchkin were both born in the wild, they were both assessed as non-releasable prior to their Utica arrival due to their comfort level with humans on the West Coast. The staff at the Turtle Back and Utica zoos plan to share Porter’s transition and new home with the Mohawk Valley community through social media in the coming weeks.

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