Blank Park Zoo
Blank Park Zoo

Meatball Makes a Splash

March 13, 2020

Officials from Iowa’s Blank Park Zoo are announcing today that a California sea lion has arrived and now lives at the Zoo’s Hub Harbor seal and sea lion habitat. ‘Meatball,’ a rescued and non-releasable female California sea lion recently moved from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Beach, California.

“’Meatball’ is very calm, curious and friendly,” said Travis Wickersham, supervisor of carnivores and primates at Blank Park Zoo. “She is very intelligent and interested in the other sea lions and seals. She will be a fun animal to work with and a great addition to our pinniped group.”

FedEx donated the cost of ‘Meatball’s’ flight to Des Moines as part of its FedEx Cares “Delivering for Good” initiative. FedEx uses its global network and logistics expertise to help organizations with mission-critical needs in times of disaster and for special shipments. Two Blank Park Zoo employees accompanied ‘Meatball’ on the journey to monitor and care for her.

“We are thankful to FedEx for making it possible to give her a permanent home,” said Mark Vukovich, CEO of Blank Park Zoo. “She will become an ambassador for our oceans, educating our guests on the importance of conserving our oceans and natural resources.”

When the PMMC team rescued ‘Meatball,’ she was suffering from deep puncture wounds, an upper respiratory tract infection, malnutrition and dehydration. While she was able to recover from her ailments during rehabilitation, she was unable to meet the criteria for release back into her natural habitat and it was unlikely that she would be able survive on her own.

"Due to her inability to dive and compete in a small pool after over six months of rehabilitation in conjunction with being able to eat only small herring by hand and in accordance with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) standards for release, ‘Meatball’ would not be a good candidate for release back to the wild," said Dr. Kristen Sakamaki, PMMC Veterinarian.

"We are grateful for our partnership with PMMC and the important work they undertake saving, conserving and rehabilitating marine mammals. While it is unfortunate that 'Meatball' could not go back into her natural habitat, we are thankful to PMMC for the opportunity to give her a permanent home,” said Shannon McKinney, director of animal care at Blank Park Zoo. 'Meatball' will also become a great companion to our other female sea lions, 'Zoey' and 'Addy,' and our three harbor seals, 'Ross,' 'Meru' and 'Monty.'

All of the pinnipeds that live at Blank Park Zoo are animals have been rescued, rehabilitated and have been given a permanent home at the Zoo, with the exception of ‘Monty,’ the offspring of ‘Ross’ and ‘Meru.’

Meatball is becoming accustomed to her new surroundings, meeting her new companions, and can be viewed at Hub Harbor pinniped habitat at Blank Park Zoo.

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