One of the most popular exhibits at the Utica Zoo is going away, with the zoo's two sea lions moving to other zoos.

Zoo officials say the sea lion exhibit at the zoo does not provide an ideal habitat for the zoo’s sea lions, Porter and Munchkin.

They say the sea lion pool was built in 1986 and does not meet Association of Zoos and Aquariums standards, and the cost of $8 to $10 million (in 2018) to renovate and maintain the exhibit is not feasible.

The exhibit would have to be modified or decommissioned if the Zoo was to maintain its AZA accreditation.

“We’ve been aware for quite some time that our community shares this bittersweet acknowledgment; we often hear our visitors say we LOVE the California sea lions, but we don’t like their exhibit,” shares Utica Zoo Executive Director Andria Heath. “During the AZA inspection of 2018, it was pointed out that Porter can only swim 2.5 lengths of his body in the pool; that’s when we came to terms that we needed to make this difficult decision.”

Porter will be moving to the Turtle Back Zoo in New Jersey on September 27, while Munchkin will remain at the Utica Zoo until her transfer plans are finalized, which could be in a couple of weeks.

The staff at the Turtle Back and Utica zoos plan to share Porter’s transition and new home with the Mohawk Valley community through social media in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the Utica Zoo will be expanding its Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra exhibit with the addition of a female zebra, Zecora, will be joining the Zoo family at the end of October from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The Zoo hopes that she will be a mate for Rundu, the resident male zebra, who came to Utica in 2013.

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