When animals cannot survive in their natural habitat, zoos and aquariums play a major role in providing these critters with safe, permanent homes. Rescued animals are wonderful ambassadors, educating the public about the challenges their species face in the wild, and the opportunity to watch these individuals grow and thrive is immensely rewarding, both for their caregivers and the whole community.
Here at the Indianapolis Zoo, we’re proud to provide a permanent home to many rescued animals, including a large group of marine mammals. As an accredited aquarium as well as a zoo, our highly skilled and extensively trained staff has many years of combined experience working with rescued aquatic animals.
Learn more about our many rescued marine mammals: Atlantic bottlenose dolphin Taz; California sea lions Holly, Joy, Ivy and Ray; and Pacific walrus Pakak.
The smallest of our sea lions, Ivy arrived in Indianapolis back in August 2016. From April 2015 to March 2016, she required treatment for multiple medical conditions during three separate strandings. Most recently, rescuers found her at a cove in La Jolla, Calif., where she was dehydrated and underweight with an open wound on her rear flipper. Now healthy, active and growing, Ivy likes to swim and play with the other young sea lions.
Holly and Joy
These active young sea lions joined our Zoo family at the same time back in December 2013. Holly was found stranded along the California coast and, during her rehabilitation, rescuers noticed that she wasn’t eating regularly and also displayed some behavioral issues. While she eventually regained her health, rescuers determined she wouldn’t be able to survive on her own in the wild. Meanwhile, Joy was born at a stranding center where her mother was receiving treatment for a health condition called Red Tide. Because Joy’s mother was sick and unable to care for her, she could not learn the skills needed to be released into the wild.
Both marine mammals are now thriving in their Zoo environment. If you stop by the underwater viewing window in Oceans, you may get a visit from Joy, who loves interacting there with guests and keepers!
One of two male sea lions at the Zoo, Ray was discovered stranded on two separate occasions following multiple gunshot attacks, the last of which left him significant injuries to his mouth and right eye. With his limited vision, rescuers ultimately determined that he couldn’t be returned to the wild.
After coming to the Zoo in August 2012, Ray adjusted quickly to life in our seal/sea lion exhibit. And while he eventually lost the sight in his left eye as well, Ray had already learned all the twists and turns of our fixed environment, which means he’s still able to maneuver through our exhibit confidently.
Guests at our sea lion chats and training demonstrations may notice that keepers have to adjust their techniques a bit when working with Ray, but this large sea lion is still learning new behaviors and also enjoys lounging around — and barking!
When he was just an infant, Pakak was found sick and stranded off the northern coast of Alaska after a large group of about 1,000 Pacific walrus had moved through the area. Far too young to survive on his own, rescuers came in to help nurse the 250-pound calf back to health.
Since coming to the Zoo back in October 2012, the “one who gets into everything” (the meaning of his name) has grown quite a bit — more than three times the size he was when rescued! Aurora, the Zoo’s female walrus, helped to raise him and the two have become good pals.
Guests can now see Pakak’s tusks growing in. These overgrown canine teeth are useful tools and walrus use them for activities like pulling their big bodies out of the water, breaking through thick ice and more. Pakak’s tusks have been capped to help protect them as they grow out.
This spunky, young dolphin came to Zoo in February 2011 at just 6 months old. Earlier that year, the youngster had been found stranded in shallow water near a wildlife refuge with no adults in sight. Since dolphin calves typically nurse from their mothers for one to three years, trainers here at the Zoo bottle-fed Taz for several months after his arrival to help him grow healthy and strong.
Now, Taz is right at home with the rest of our pod in the Dolphin Pavilion. Similar in age to Orin, another male dolphin born here in 2012, the two youngsters have bonded and are often found swimming and playing together. Taz is also a regular participant in our daily dolphin presentations, and guests can tell him apart from the others because he is the loudest one in the pool!
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