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Sea Lions get Homes at SeaWorld Parks

by Arthur Gregg Sulzberger
The Oregonian, May 4, 2008

Six sea lions trapped at Bonneville Dam last month headed to SeaWorld parks this weekend, officials said.

Three of the sea lions arrived late Friday at SeaWorld Orlando, said Diane Centeno, a SeaWorld spokeswoman. The sea lions will be quarantined for 30 days, then will join other marine mammals, she said.

The other three went to SeaWorld parks in either San Diego or San Antonio, said Rick Hargrave, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The animals were captured as part of an effort to protect endangered salmon runs in the Columbia River. Dozens of sea lions -- and at one point 60 -- have parked themselves at the dam, where the fish are easiest to catch.

The sea lions were being held at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma. A seventh sea lion died last week during a medical inspection.

The National Marine Fisheries Service authorized Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife authorities to kill or capture as many as 85 sea lions a year for five years at the dam to protect the fish.

The state agencies are planning to continue to trap and transfer animals this month, but have been ordered not to kill any after a court challenge of the federal agency's decision by the Humane Society of the United States. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear the matter this week.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has commitments for homes for an additional 14 sea lions, including another six that will be sent to the three SeaWorld parks, Hargrave said.

However, many of the sea lions are expected to begin leaving the area this month to return to breeding grounds in Southern California, he said.

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger
Sea Lions get Homes at SeaWorld Parks
The Oregonian, May 4, 2008

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