California sea lions find a forever home at Brookfield Zoo

When FedEx received the opportunity to assist two orphaned and injured California sea lions, all hands were on deck to help. The Chicago Zoological Society (CZS), a 501c3 non-profit, requested assistance to transport the sea lions from Los Angeles to Chicago where they would enjoy a forever home at the Brookfield Zoo. Unfortunately, their quality of life thus far had been poor.

The first female sea lion was found on November 17, 2018 at Dana Point Harbor in California suffering from malnutrition and dehydration. She had lacerations on her chest and flipper, potentially from a boat propeller or bite from another sea lion or shark. It was also determined that she had 30 – 40 large rocks in her stomach. After recovering a few months at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, she had gained a significant amount of weight and was released to the wild. After only 30 days, she stranded again at the same location, was again emaciated, and back to the original weight from her first stranding event. It was also determined that she was developing a cataract in her right eye. By April 2019, she was deemed unable to release since she could not successfully hunt, capture fish, and maintain her weight in the wild.

The second female sea lion was found on May 23, 2018 on Westward Beach in Malibu, California. She was emaciated and had multiple puncture wounds from fish hooks in her body. She was sent to the Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles where they determined her left eye had a ruptured cornea that required a complete removal of her eye. Her right eye also had a small corneal puncture, which limits her vision in that eye. Due to her ocular injuries and limited vision, she was deemed unable to release back to the wild.

Although these sea lion pups endured significant challenges, the Brookfield Zoo remained confident that the pair would enjoy their new home, thanks to the safe transport provided by FedEx. In fact, the zoo staff named one of the sea lions Carolyn, after the FedEx representative who assisted with travel arrangements and the other Sabiena, in honor of a Chicago based FedEx team member, who is the company’s top volunteer in her local community.

“We are thrilled to be able to safely deliver Carolyn and Sabiena to their new home, and we are so proud the rescued animals are named after two of our outstanding team members,” said Jenny Robertson, vice president, Corporate Communications, FedEx. “This special shipment is part of our FedEx Cares 'Delivering for Good' initiative where we use our global network to deliver precious cargo where it’s needed most.”

Following physical exams and acclimation to their new environment, the sea lions are expected to make their public debut at the zoo in mid-October.

“It is unfortunate that Carolyn and Sabiena had such a rough start in life, which is why we are honored to be able to assist National Marine Fisheries Service in providing a good home for both of them,” said Rita Stacey, marine mammal curator for CZS. “We are extremely grateful to FedEx for providing the transportation of the sea lions to Chicago. This minimized the travel time, which greatly benefits the animals’ transition to their new home.”