New Sea Lion Exhibit Coming to Fresno's Chaffee Zoo

FRESNO, Calif. Pismo the California sea lion is a very popular draw here at the Fresno Chafee Zoo, a treat for the young and the young at heart. Zoo Director Scot Barton commented about the lone sea lion's action in the pool, "You see how active they are. Imagine if you could see Pismo underwater." That's just what the zoo plans to do with its "Coastal California sea lion" exhibit. It will be the first new exhibit built with Measure Z tax dollars from the ground up. Barton explained where the underwater viewing would take place and how much space for those watching, "This window at this point is 36 feet long and eight feet high. It will offer a unique perspective for Zoo visitors"

We got an exclusive look at the renderings in mid-February. The sea lions will swim in an exhibit nearly 10 times the size of the current one. Pismo now swims in a 25-thousand gallon pool. The new exhibit's pool will hold 2-hundred-50 thousand gallons!

Amy Braun was visiting the day we saw the ambitious plans She voted for Measure Z tax and she supports the progress small and large that came with the new funding, "Because of my daughter here. I'd like her to grow up with a zoo that's fun to go to and changes a lot and keeps people coming."

Other planned exhibits outside the zoo's current boundaries await a completed environment impact report. It was held up at Fresno city hall by a rising budget shortfall. To keep progress moving the zoo voluntarily stepped in to pay the EIR bill with its own funds. The money is to be reimbursed next year says Barton, "It's about making this happen. It's all about moving the Measure Z improvements forward and the city's been a great partner with us."

When the EIR is accepted Barton says design work will begin on an African exhibit, "It's going to be a beautiful modern experience that makes you feel like you're on safari in Africa." Meantime as visitors take advantage of the waning winter's warmer days behind the scenes zoo keepers are preparing two new young rescue sea lions to join the current exhibit. And the pair of one year old sea lions was barking approval for our camera! By late next week Avilla and Catalina will join Pismo.

Scott Barton told us he hopes, "To do 4 to 5 remarkable exhibits and then let the community decide if they want us to continue."

Look for an opening date of the 'coastal sea lion exhibit' in early two-thousand twelve and a decision from voters on renewing Measure Z two years later.

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