OKLAHOMA CITY – A malnourished sea lion is finding new life at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Isla’s story began when she was found as a malnourished sea lion pup near Santa Barbara, California.
“Very ill, very sick and skinny, and the Channel Island Marine and Wildlife Institute actually took her in and nursed her back to health,” Sierra Chappell, her trainer and caretaker, said.
In 90 days, she was back in the ocean. However, Isla had other ideas.
“She actually crossed a beach, a busy road and then walked into the Alomar Hotel in Santa Barbara,” said Chappell. “Right into the lobby. She had seen people and thought ‘Maybe I can get some food from them.”
Due to a limited food supply, many sea lions in the area need help.
After learning that Isla was not adjusting to life in the wild, the Channel Island Marine and Wildlife Institute contacted the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Luckily, the zoo had enough room and decided to provide a home for her.
“And lots of room in our hearts for a new sea lion,” Chappell added.
Sierra Chappell was soon on a plane to bond with Isla and bring her to the Sooner State. Isla was trained to go into a crate and then transported from a van to a FedEx cargo plane. Her new best friend never left her side.
“She’s different than any sea lion I’ve ever met before,” said Chappell.
Back in Oklahoma, she is getting ready to meet the other sea lions. She will eventually perform with them someday. For now, she is putting on her own show.
“I just love to see the sea lion swimming around, playing with its toys and eating,” said Alex, a young zoo guest.
All the training is done on the sea lion’s own time. They’re never rushed, so there’s no time frame on when Isla will start performing.
The OKC Zoo says they will post photos and videos of Isla’s progress on their Facebook page.