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Sea Lions to leave Antwerp Zoo, as renovation plans fall through
Antwerp Zoo has to stop caring for sea lions and are transferring them to other zoos in Europe. The zoo is facing an impossible situation regarding the animals’ enclosure.
The zoo has four sea lions – Kees, Zilver, Luna en Zoë. It finds that the old habitat is not sufficient to ensure the animals’ well-being and had plans to carry out improvements and an expansion. But the structures in the zoo – the oldest of which date from the 1850s – are protected monuments.
So the zoo cannot alter the habitat of the sea lions in a way they find sufficient. “Animal wellness is our top priority,” zoo spokesperson Ilse Segers told Radio 2. “It now appears that we cannot reconcile this with the visitor experience and our protected heritage.”
The two older males in the group are headed to the UK, while the younger females will become part of a breeding programme in Germany. Kees, the eldest sea lion at 24, is blind and has trouble with his flippers. An appropriate home has been found for him in England, where he will reside with a group of older sea lions. The other male, Zilver, was born at the zoo 22 years ago.
Members of the zoo-going public are unhappy that the sea lions – known for diving, playing, barking and being very active in general – have to go. The zookeepers as well. “Sea lions are very intelligent and good-natured animals,” Matthew Everaert, a former intern who cared for the animals for six weeks. “It’s really a shame they have to go, but it’s for the best.”
The sea lions regular keepers “are also unhappy about it,” said Segers. “But, at the same time, every month animals arrive or leave because of breeding programmes. That’s one of the jobs of an animal park, certainly where international co-operation is concerned.”
It’s unclear exactly when the sea lions will move; first they have to get used to their transport carriers. “We’re working according to their rhythm,” said Segers. “We’re giving them time to get used to the carriers. We’re training them to climb in themselves.”
If you’d like to see the sea lion quartet, you should visit Antwerp Zoo as soon as possible, though you probably have until at least the end of April.
©Jonas Verhulst/Antwerp Zoo