A Sea Lion-shaped update from Curator Mark Smith

As an aquatic ecosystem and marine animal expert, Adelaide Zoo Curator Mark Smith certainly knows a thing or two about sea lions. He shares below how we came to our recent decision of keeping beloved Australian Sea Lions Ady and Tasko at Adelaide Zoo.

Hi, everyone. I want to give you an update on our amazing sea lions Ady and Tasko and I’ll be sharing as many details as I can about how we arrived at our recent decision, our independent process, and what you can expect to see when Adelaide Zoo reopens.

I have personally overseen the health, wellness and the latest improvements to Ady (a 23-year-old female) and Tasko’s (a 17-year-old male) habitat alongside an independent marine veterinarian expert. A professional welfare assessment of the Australian Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea) at Adelaide Zoo has been conducted and, based on this assessment, modifications have been made to the sea lion exhibit and changes have been made to Ady and Tasko’s animal management program.

The sea lion enclosure was assessed using the five domains model of animal welfare, a scientific animal welfare assessment model which objectively takes into account an animal’s nutrition, environment, health, behaviour and mental state. This model allows us to look at not just Ady and Tasko’s welfare, but the welfare of all the animals at Adelaide Zoo, in an objective and independent manner, free from inherent biases auditors may personally bring to the assessment. Our assessment found areas identified as requiring improvement included: (1) increased habitat space (i.e., environment) and (2) improved enrichment opportunities (i.e., behaviour). To address these issues, we incorporated an unused area into the exhibit and created a sand-covered beach area for added space and enrichment. In addition, we removed the old boardwalk platform that overlooked the pool, removing the potential stressor of people overhead, perceived as a threat by many species. Furthermore, glass paneling has replaced the boardwalk and mesh walls, giving the sea lions an expansive and enriching view of visitors. Lastly, we have installed new shade sails over the exhibit to offer the sea lions extra protection from excess sun exposure. All these improvements have been overseen and approved by a team of experts.

You are no doubt wondering about the depth of Ady and Tasko’s pool. Joint assessment by both internal and independent marine mammal experts concluded that deepening the pool would not have materially improved the welfare of Ady and Tasko, especially given their advancing age and reduced mobility. In addition, deepening the pool would be a lengthy and very invasive process, which would have subjected Ady and Tasko to significant prolonged stress during the construction phase. Given their advanced age, this was deemed a significant and unnecessary impost on the two sea lions. Based on this conclusion we used our resources, gifted to us by a very generous donor, to improve other areas of their enclosure, providing more land space, removing the overhanging boardwalk, adding more enrichment points and providing more opportunities for our keeping staff to work proactively with the animals.

We hope this explains the objective, independent process we went through to come to this decision – one that is, in our expert opinion, the best outcome for Ady and Takso. The care and welfare of all animals at Zoos SA is always our priority and we can’t wait to welcome you back into Adelaide Zoo and share these improvements with you.

I encourage you to watch our latest live video about the improvements to Ady and Tasko’s enclosure and I can’t wait for you to see the changes!

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About Zoos SA

Zoos SA is a not-for-profit conservation charity that exists to connect people with nature and save species from extinction.

Zoos SA acknowledges the Country on which we stand always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land and we pay our deepest respect and gratitude to Kaurna (Adelaide Zoo) and Ngarrindjeri (Monarto Safari Park) Elders, past, present and emerging.

We undertake critical conservation work throughout Australia and acknowledge the traditional custodians of these lands.


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