Alex Pinnell, Senior Zookeeper at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
The day has finally come for us all to wave goodbye to our sea lion colony at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, as their new home at Yorkshire Wildlife Park is ready for them to move in.
We’ve been working up towards this for a long time, but the impact of COVID-19 has been far reaching - as we all know - and the move of our family has been one of many that was put on hold while projects were paused, and animal moves were not allowed.
However, moving an animal isn’t as simple as packing some snacks for the road (although we’ll obviously make sure we have plenty!) and setting off early to beat the traffic - it takes a lot of planning and preparation to ensure everything goes smoothly.
We’ve spent the past year training the sea lions to walk into their travel boxes, this regular training means they’re really familiar with the crates and know that it’s a safe place to be. The training also allows us to see who’s more comfortable, and who might need a little extra attention on moving day. Just like us, they’ve all got their own personalities!
We’re working towards completing the moves in the second week of February – we’ve not got a set date as we’re going to let the sea lions dictate the pace – if Maui wants to play, or Lara wants a quick swim, that’s fine, we’ll go when they choose to get in their boxes!
It’s no secret at all that I loved the additional time that the delay gave me with Dominic, Bailey and the rest of the flippered gang, and it’s also meant that our wonderful members and supporters have been able to enjoy them for a bit longer too. Through our Facebook Lives, broadcast from the pool here at Whipsnade directly to people’s homes up and down the country, the sea lions have helped us to keep people connected with wildlife, put a smile on people’s faces through lockdown and help us raise thousands of pounds for ZSL while we’ve been closed to the public. They also got to star in our ITV documentary “London Zoo: An Extraordinary Year” as the crew followed our plans for their departure.
While the extra time we’ve had makes it no easier to say goodbye, we’re all so excited for their future, knowing they’re going to a wonderful place with an amazing new home, that’s been built just for them.
We’re sorry that you won’t be able to come and see them before they leave, but please join us in sending them off with a big virtual wave. Please do tag us @zslwhipsnadezoo on Instagram or Facebook with any pictures of the sea lions at Whipsnade – the colony will be leaving a lasting impression on us all.
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