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Aquarium of the Pacific welcomes new sea lion, Chase

Mammal expert explains integration process for the new critter

Edited by Lissette Mendoza

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Aquarium of the Pacific welcomes new sea lion, Chase

Chase, the Aquarium of the Pacific’s latest sea lion

Chase, the Aquarium of the Pacific’s latest sea lion

Courtesy Aquarium of the Pacific

Chase, the Aquarium of the Pacific’s latest sea lion

Courtesy Aquarium of the Pacific

Courtesy Aquarium of the Pacific

Chase, the Aquarium of the Pacific’s latest sea lion

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Chase the sea lion spends his time swimming in loops in the back of his new home within the Aquarium of the Pacific.

While a couple of the sea lions were seen swimming in sync on one side of the tank Oct. 9, Chase was seen on the other side, calmly swimming upside down by himself before making a loop, returning to his original starting point and drifting backwards into his loop once again.

The 4-year old, 280-pound male joined the rest of the seal and sea lion family a week ago. He was specifically chosen from a group of other optional animals, as he was seen as the best fit to integrate into the aquarium, according to experts.

Factors that are used to determine whether an animal will be the best fit include receptive responses to being in a public setting, such as an aquarium, an animal that is not going to challenge others for a hierarchy position and trainability, according to Rob Mortensen, assistant curator of birds and mammals at the aquarium.

In an interview with the Signal Tribune Oct. 9, Mortensen described the extensive process of getting Chase integrated into his new habitat.

“The first thing we do with any new animal is that we quarantine them,” he said. “We want to make sure if he had any diseases that they wouldn’t transmit to other parts of the collection. Whether that’s a bird, a fish or a mammal, that’s an automatic safety precaution. We keep the animal in a back area for 30 to 60 days, depending on the animal.”

Once they are medically cleared, the animals learn some trained basic behaviors. In the case of sea lions, experts teach them to respond to certain commands, avoid competitiveness with others for food and recognize shapes so the animal responds to the corresponding visual with its trainer. Mortensen said that sea lions get hazed when introduced into new homes.

“There has to be some sort of pecking order that has to be established with these animals,” he said. “Sometimes, if one comes in that’s new and there’s a bigger, more assertive animal, you will have some jostling back and forth until they re-establish their pecking order. It’s pretty normal. This is something they do in the wild, as well. [Chase] has, but he’s a little bit of a bigger animal, so he’s had a little bit of an easier time integrating into the collection, and he was accepted pretty readily.”

Chase can be told apart from the three other sea lions– Parker, Harpo and Cain– by his slightly darker coat color and bigger head. In the exhibit, Chase is also joined by three harbor seals, Ellie, Shelby and Troy.

When asked what stood out about Chase the most, Mortensen said, “I love Chase. He’s a very willing animal [and] very, very calm, so he’s usually doing what we ask him to do. He is very cooperative [and] wants to please.”

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Aquarium of the Pacific welcomes new sea lion, Chase