An official of the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, which last year provided a temporary home for one of the sea lions decimating the steelhead population at the Ballard Locks, says a Florida aquarium would be an ideal place for the pesky mammals.
The News Tribune of Tacoma, citing unidentified sources, reported Thursday that Sea World in Orlando, Fla., has offered to adopt Hondo and four other sea lions who could face the death penalty for eating too many steelhead.
Spokesmen for Sea World, the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife all declined to comment.
A person who identified himself as David in the Sea World public affairs office, said, “Oh, you mean the sea lions we’re taking in to ….” before the phone call was transferred to Sea World spokeswoman Becca Bides, who would not confirm or deny Thursday they were taking in the sea lions.
“We don’t have any details at this time. I’m sorry. I can’t even comment on that!” Bides said.
“I’ve been sworn to secrecy,” one government fisheries biologist told The News Tribune, “but there’s supposed to be a news announcement sometime soon.”
“They’re working on getting the permits all squared away,” said Jeff Foster, marine mammal expert at Point Defiance, which also had offered to give some of the sea lions a home.
Sea World’s Florida park is uniquely suited to handle them, Foster said. “They have a huge, naturalistic exhibit that’s probably the best in the country.”
Th exhibit, with large pools and rocky beaches, holds about 80 seals and sea lions, Foster said.
The wild sea lions from Ballard would be the largest in captivity, but there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t get along with their new roommates, he added.
Hondo was kept at Point Defiance for about six months last year, after he was captured and detained until the steelhead spawning run was over.