Vancouver, B.C. – Come nose to snout with Steller sea lions at Steller’s Bay, a new exhibit that spotlights these majestic and mysterious creatures, starting July 1 only at Vancouver Aquarium. Transported to a fishing village on Canada’s west coast, visitors will delight as they experience sea lions basking brilliantly in the sun and hear them roaring in spectacular chorus. Below the surface stands huge underwater viewing windows where visitors will be immersed in a sea lion’s world, getting up-close as the dynamic animals glide through the water with incredible power and agility.
The spectacular new exhibit will prominently feature an active research station, bringing behind-the-scenes research to the forefront and allowing visitors to deep dive into the critical role these animals play in conserving their counterparts in the wild.
Building on a strong, trusting relationship with the Aquarium’s marine mammal trainers, the female Steller sea lions living at the Aquarium have become excellent research assistants. In a collaborative effort, the trainers and sea lions are working with University of British Columbia scientists to understand the mysterious disappearance of 80 per cent of the wild Steller sea lion population. Visitors will observe the trainers as they feed and care for these animals, lead enrichment exercises, and collect valuable metabolic information, such as weight, heart rate, and breathing rate; these readings contribute to ongoing studies.
“The new Steller’s Bay exhibit is unlike anything we’ve ever offered, demonstrating our research program daily while inviting guests to get closer to these charismatic animals and connect with them like never before,” said Dolf DeJong, general manager of Vancouver Aquarium, an Ocean Wise initiative. “Not only will visitors see these magnificent Steller sea lions from a different perspective but our research-first approach will help create a newfound appreciation for sea lions, the challenges they face in the wild, and how Vancouver Aquarium is contributing to science-based conservation solutions.”
When the scientific community noticed the significant Steller sea lion population decline, UBC scientist Dr. Andrew Trites connected with then-president of the Vancouver Aquarium Murray Newman to explore how both organizations could collaborate and find a solution to this mystery. Twenty-five years later, the research continues; UBC scientists Dr. Trites and Dr. David Rosen work closely with Aquarium trainers and the Steller sea lions living at the Aquarium to study diet, including the quantity and quality of food necessary for survival, as well as how they source their food.
The Aquarium’s interpreters and trainers have come together to offer special Steller sea lion programs, introducing guests to these intriguing animals, demonstrating the compelling relationship between trainers and the animals, and guiding them though leading-edge conservation research. In another Aquarium first, interpreters and trainers are taking the collaboration to another level while demonstrating how sea lions dive for food and will offer an interactive program from the above-water research station and the underwater viewing area at the same time.
A fitting tribute to one of British Columbia’s most iconic and intriguing animals, Steller’s Bay opens on July 1, 2017 – Canada Day and is located in the Canada’s Wild Pacific outdoor gallery. Learn more at www.vanaqua.org/sealions.
Vancouver Aquarium, an Ocean Wise initiative, is one of the world’s leading accredited aquariums, dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life. www.vanaqua.org
Editor’s Note: Photos of Steller sea lions as well as a timelapse of exhibit construction is available on request.