June 6, 2012

Saint Louis Zoo 314/781-0900
Susan Gallagher, 314/646-4633
Christy Childs, 314/646-4639
Joanna Bender, 314/646-4703;


Made possible by The Living Promise Campaign gifts from private donors

The Saint Louis Zoo's new Sea Lion Sound brings visitors nose-to-nose with swimming sea lions through an exhibit opening to the public on Saturday, June 30. Sea Lion Sound features a walk-through, transparent tunnel into the sea lion habitat – the first in North America – and a landscape inspired by the rugged Pacific Northwest Coast.

Located in the center of the Zoo, the 1.5-acre, $18 million habitat and arena for 11 California sea lions includes two state-of-the-art marine mammal exhibits.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car Family Sea Lion Landing features a spectacular 35-foot-long underwater viewing tunnel, where visitors can see animals swimming around them. This spacious, year-round outdoor pool and habitat features varying depths of water and rocky outcroppings. At one end of the pool is a shallow beach where animals can go for sun bathing, feeding and training. The water becomes deeper at the other end of the pool, where visitors find an expansive window to watch the sea lions underwater – another first for the Saint Louis Zoo. A harbor seal is expected to join the sea lions at Sea Lion Landing later this summer.

The Lichtenstein Sea Lion Arena, home to the First Bank Sea Lion Show, features an 811-seat amphitheater, the large Ann Lux Family Stage, a 40,000-gallon see-through pool, a rock bridge extending into the audience and a high diving platform and slide – all designed to show off the sea lions' natural abilities. Audiences will be thrilled by the powerful swimming, flipper walks, balancing acts, and lots of splashing demonstrated by these incredible animals.

"At Sea Lion Sound, visitors will see our sea lions close-up. They will be able to interact directly with these magnificent marine mammals and learn from that contact. We believe this experience will build a new understanding of these highly adaptable, social creatures and the need for their conservation," said Dr. Jeffrey P. Bonner, Dana Brown President and CEO of the Zoo.

Animal Care

Sea Lion Sound also has a new Sea Lion Care Center. A separate space dedicated to the animals, the staff and life support systems, this facility provides advanced care and management for marine mammals.

Efficient new systems are expected to save 11 million gallons of water each year at Sea Lion Sound. The new habitat is a saltwater environment containing nearly 250,000 gallons of water.

About the Animals

The main population of California sea lions is found along the west coast in the Pacific Ocean. Harbor seals are commonly found in the coastal waters of the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans. While both are marine mammals and powerful, graceful swimmers, sea lions and seals have distinct differences. Harbor seals and other "true" seals do not have external ear flaps, while sea lions, along with fur seals and walruses, have visible, external ear flaps. Sea lions can rotate their hind flippers under their bodies, allowing them to walk easily on land. Seals do not have this ability and move about in an inchworm-like motion.

All marine mammals are protected by the federally regulated Marine Mammal Protection Act. Though harbor seals and California sea lions are not currently endangered in the wild, other marine species are threatened because of pollution, marine debris, unsustainable commercial fishing, and other man-made threats.

Show Schedule

Beginning June 30, sea lion shows will be at 11 a.m., 1:30 and 3 p.m. daily in summer with an additional show at 5 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. From September 4 through October 28, the shows will be on weekends only. Timed tickets are $4 per person at the ticket booth and Welcome Desks on day of show. Children under 2 are free. Zoo members may redeem their Anywhere passes for timed tickets. There will also be three daily sea lion feedings and keeper chats, during the season and weather permitting, at Sea Lion Landing at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. There are no fees for animal viewing areas and public feedings.


In mid-2010, the Zoo publically launched The Living Promise Campaign to raise $120 million to be used to build dynamic new animal exhibits, enhance the visitor experience, improve the Zoo's infrastructure, and strengthen its endowment. In addition to providing funds to build Sea Lion Sound, the Campaign has covered the costs of converting the old elephant house into Peabody Hall, creating the Wells Fargo South Arrival Experience, building the Myron Glassberg Family Maintenance Facility, adding a fourth naturalistic area for elephants, Elephant Woods, and much more. Over the next few years, the Campaign will be funding new habitats for grizzlies and polar bears, the addition of painted dogs (a new species to the Zoo) and a range of infrastructure repairs.

More than $100 million of the Zoo's $120 million goal has been pledged by individuals, corporations and foundations. See donor list.

"As we plan for the Zoo's future, we have made a promise to always care deeply for animals and the natural world, to remain accessible to all our visitors, to be a leader in wildlife conservation, and to steward our resources carefully," Dr. Bonner added. "One hundred years ago, the founders of the Zoo made a number of extraordinary promises to the people of St. Louis, including that we would offer a zoo that is open to all, free of any admission charge. We expect to keep that promise and many others, thanks to the individuals and business and foundation leaders who care deeply about the Zoo. Their generosity has made this day possible."

Zoo Hours & More Information

Admission to the Zoo and Sea Lion Sound is free. There are fees for special attractions, including the Sea Lion Show. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day, the Zoo is open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Weekday summer hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. On Independence Day and Labor Day, the Zoo is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Zoo will close at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 15, for the Zoo's major fundraiser.

The Zoo's off-season hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily begin September 4, 2012.

For more information on Sea Lion Sound and the Saint Louis Zoo, visit,,, and

About the Saint Louis Zoo:
Named America's #1 Zoo by Zagat Survey and Parenting Magazine, the Saint Louis Zoo is widely recognized for its innovative approaches to animal management, wildlife conservation, research and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, it attracts about 3,000,000 visitors a year.