OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden has announced its plan to break ground on a state-of-the-art habitat for its resident California sea lions and harbor seals in Spring 2023.

OKC Zoo officials say the latest expansion will provide an expanded and enriched habitat for its California sea lions and harbor seals – as well as potential for other species!

“This is an exciting time of growth and transformation for the OKC Zoo and we are extremely grateful to our guests, members and the community for their continuous support,” said Dr. Dwight Lawson, Zoo executive director/CEO. “Guests will experience a renewed connection to these animals and their habitat as they discover this breathtaking new oasis. Our goal is to inform guests about the importance of protecting and maintaining healthy water sources for all living things while inspiring conservation action.”

The updates design includes an outdoor amphitheater, beach areas for the animals, “nose-to-nose” views of the sea lions and seals, an interactive sand area for kids, a special event space and an 8-foot tall underwater viewing window.

“We are thrilled to build a brand new, dynamic habitat space for our marine mammal family,” said Sierra Chappell, OKC Zoo’s assistant curator of marine mammals. “Our sea lions and seals will be welcomed back to an innovative space full of opportunities to enhance their overall wellbeing.”

While the habitat is being constructed, the Zoo’s sea lion family Xander, Cash, Piper, Addie, Pearl, Phoenix, and Isla, as well as harbor seals, Liberty and Bixby, will all be temporarily relocated to other zoos and aquariums.

Due to this move, the Zoo’s sea lion presentations will temporarily conclude on Sunday, October 30.

Presentations occur at 1 p.m. daily and 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays in the Zoo’s Sea Lion Presentation Stadium through Oct. 30. Cost is $5 per person, in addition to Zoo admission. Children two and under are free.

Sea lion presentations will resume once the expansion project is completed in 2025.

The new habitat expansion will be located in the eastern section of the park overlooking Zoo Lake and encompass 3.5 acres.

Project plans also include reusing and repurposing select materials from existing sites like the Zoo’s Noble Aquatic Center/Aquaticus, which has been closed to guests since 2017, and Pollinator Garden.

With the Pollinator Garden being repurposed for this project, the Zoo says it’s establishing additional pollinator gardens throughout its grounds to replenish habitat for native pollinators.

Funding for the expansion was secured through the Zoo’s 1/8-of-a-cent sales tax accrual, approved by Oklahoma City citizens in 1990.

The Oklahoma City Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.