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Saint Louis ZOO members watched sea lions close-up on Friday during a preview of the spectacular 35-foot-long underwater viewing tunnel at Sea Lion Sound, which opens to the public on Saturday, June 30.

"I love seeing the kids going past the big window behind me, but the tunnel is magic," said Dr. Jeffrey P. Bonner, Dana Brown President & CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo, with a big smile.

"This is just awesome," exclaimed one young girl pressing her face against the thick glass wall to see a sea lion swim through the clear salt water habitat.

Visitors can interact directly with California sea lions while walking through a transparent tunnel - the first in North America.

On members preview day, families and friends were mesmerized with the underwater world experience where sunlight danced across sea lions swimming past the window.
New Sea Lion Sound Brings a Magical Experience to Saint Louis ZOO
by Betty Moore,
ST. LOUIS, (, June 29, 2012 - The Saint Louis Zoo's new Sea Lion Sound brings visitors nose-to-nose with swimming sea lions through Sea Lion Sound, an exhibit opening to the public on Saturday, June 30.

In an interview Friday morning during a special member preview, Dr. Jeffrey P. Bonner, Dana Brown President & CEO of the Saint Louis Zoo, spoke enthusiastically about the ZOO's special exhibit.

"We started planning back in 2007, so we really knew where we wanted to go. In this case, we are doing things that are absolutely essential. We couldn't have Sea Lions before, because they had to be put in salt water and we couldn't convert the old exhibits. Now, we have the greatest habitat in the world," Dr. Bonner stated proudly.

Behind him, young children reached out spontaneously to try touching the sea lions through the large thick glass window outside the tunnel. Other stood quietly, mesmerized by the playfulness of the mammals swimming in the 39,000-gallon see-through pool.

"This exhibit has exceeded my expectations. I've been doing this for thirty years and I've never had something go so far beyond what I dreamed," he said. "I love seeing the kids going past the big window behind me, but the tunnel is magic," said Dr. Bonner.

The new Sea Lion Sound is just the beginning of many improvements visitors to the ZOO can look forward to experiencing. Dr. Booner acknowledged that on Monday, workers will begin on major improvements to Rivers Edge.

"The construction fence is already up for the next project with the speckle bears, sun bears and the African Wild Dogs, all in the heart of the Rivers Edge. It's going to be fabulous," Bonner said, pausing for a moment, "although I'm not sure it will equal this, until we get to the Polar Bears. That will really be amazing."

In mid-2010, the Zoo publically launched The Living Promise Campaign to raise $120 million to be used to build dynamic new animal exhibits, enhance the visitor experience, improve the Zoo's infrastructure, and strengthen its endowment.

Dr. Bonner stated that the campaign has reached nearly $103 million. "We've been raising funds during one of the worst economic times in our living memory. It hasn't been easy, but people in St. Louis are so generous. We've had such a warm response to the campaign and we couldn't be happier with our progress."

"St. Louis just keeps getting better and better and so does your ZOO," Dr, Bonner added with a big smile as several kids squealed with delight when one of the sea lions glided quickly past the window.

Saint Louis ZOO officials hope this experience will build a new understanding of these highly adaptable, social creatures and bring a new awareness to the continued need for their conservation.

If long lines stretching from the entrance to the new Sea Lion Sound, located just east of the Lakeside Cafe, up the hill past Peabody Hall to the Big Cat Country exhibit are any indication of response from members and visitors, the ZOO has succeeded in bringing a magical water experience to St. Louis.

Located in the center of the Zoo, the 1.5-acre, $18 million habitat and arena for 11 California sea lions includes two state-of-the-art marine mammal exhibits. Sea Lion Sound features a transparent tunnel - the first in North America - and a landscape inspired by the rugged Pacific Northwest Coast.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car Family Sea Lion Landing features a spectacular 35-foot-long underwater viewing tunnel, where visitors can see animals swimming around them. This spacious, year-round outdoor pool and habitat features varying depths of water and rocky outcroppings. At one end of the pool is a shallow beach where animals can go for sun bathing, feeding and training. The water becomes deeper at the other end of the pool, where visitors find an expansive window to watch the sea lions underwater - another first for the Saint Louis Zoo. A harbor seal is expected to join the sea lions at Sea Lion Landing later this summer.

The Lichtenstein Sea Lion Arena, home to the First Bank Sea Lion Show, features an 811-seat amphitheater, the large Ann Lux Family Stage, a 39,000-gallon see-through pool, a rock bridge extending into the audience and a high diving platform and slide - all designed to show off the sea lions' natural abilities. Audiences will be thrilled by the powerful swimming, flipper walks, balancing acts, and lots of splashing demonstrated by these incredible animals.

When the exhibit opens on June 30, the First Bank Sea Lion Show plus animal presentations will be held several times a day. Timed tickets to the Sea Lion Show will be $4; however the rest of the exhibit will be free.

Early Friday morning, families and friends waited in long lines stretching from the entrance to the new Sea Lion Sound, located just east of the Lakeside Cafe, up the hill past Peabody Hall to the Big Cat Country exhibit.

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The Saint Louis ZOO is home to more than 3,000 animals and features Jungle of the Apes and Big Cat Country. Additional attractions include the Emerson Electric Children's Zoo, The Living World educational center, River's Edge, "Penguin & Puffin Coast," Monsanto Insectarium, Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel, sea lion shows and bird house.

The World's Fair Flight Cage at the Zoo and the Saint Louis Art Museum, located north east of the Zoo, are the two structures remaining in Forest Park that were built for the 1904 World's Fair. Photos highlighting the 1904 World's Fair can be seen at the Missouri Historical Society, located in the Jefferson Memorial Building in Forest Park.

The Zoo is open year round, except December 25 and January 1. Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

Non-summer hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. General admission to the Zoo is FREE. Parking on the Zoo's two lots is $11 per day. Parking for buses, motor homes and R.V.s is $22 and is available on the South Lot only. Some events and special programs may have an admission cost.

Note: Coolers and picnic baskets are permitted on the Zoo grounds. There are picnic tables located in central areas at the Zoo. All major facilities are wheelchair accessible, as are most restrooms. Wheelchairs and strollers are available to rent at The Living World and South Gate. Wheelchairs: $7 per day; motorized vehicles (limited number) available to those 18 years or older with a major credit card: $25 per day; single strollers are $7 per day; double strollers are $9 per day. For more information, please call 314-781-0900, 1-800-966-8877 or TDD: 314-768-5421.

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