It was just two years ago that six California sea lions were forced from their home when they had their lives disrupted by Hurricane Katrina. Today, the group of sea lions has put the devastation behind them, and has adapted to life at Dolphin Encounters – the facility that adopted them after their Oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi was destroyed in the storm.
“It was never a question about whether or not we would take them in. We knew immediately that we had to help out. These animals needed love, and they needed a permanent home. They had already suffered enough trauma with the storm. We just wanted to make their lives easier and make the transition smoother,” said Robert Meister, managing director of Dolphin Encounters.
The group of sea lions: five females and one male, arrived in the Bahamas by private charter transport from Sea World Orlando, where they had been living after Hurricane Katrina ravaged their home. They were later transferred by boat from Nassau to Blue Lagoon Island, where they were placed in their new home, a large all-natural ocean habitat. All of the animals were born under human care, so their transfer to Blue Lagoon Island was the first time that they had ever been in an ocean environment.
“They quickly adapted to Blue Lagoon Island. It was such a natural process. We expected them to be a little hesitant, especially with a new environment, but they were walking and swimming around as if they had lived here all of their lives,” said Kim Terrell, marine mammal director at Dolphin Encounters. Perhaps what made the transition easier for the sea lions, is the fact that they were reunited with Ms. Terrell, who is the former Director of Training at Marine Life Oceanarium where the sea lions lived. She trained several of the animals now living on Blue Lagoon Island and is a native Mississippian. Ms. Terrell is also overseeing the animals in their habitat.
“This was truly an incredible reunion. It’s sad the way it had to happen, but I’m grateful that they are all here and safe. I raised and worked with these animals, they are a part of my family. It was heartbreaking to watch what had happened to them, their home and my home,” said Ms. Terrell. “But I’m happy that they are back with me on Blue Lagoon Island. Dolphin Encounters prides itself on the care and safety of its animals, so the sea lions couldn’t have found a better home and they’re all healthy and happy here.”
Today, Kalika, Magnolia, Murray, P.J, Torey and Xena are doing well and fully comfortable with life on the island.
“I’m thrilled to have these animals back in my life. They’ve been through quite a lot, but we’re working to make sure that they are well taken care of and as happy as they can be. This is their new home now and they are getting the love and attention they need,” said Ms. Terrell.