CHICAGO (CBS) — The Shedd Aquarium showed off two new sea lions on Wednesday – one with a reputation as a greedy crook, the other a blind gunshot victim.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Tanner, a 500-pound sea lion, is kind of a bad boy.
Shedd executive vice president Ken Ramirez said Tanner came from the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest, where he was eating huge numbers of endangered salmon – so many he was caught and branded so wildlife biologists could track him.
“Well, he was certainly one of the ones that the government considered a bad boy. I mean, it’s not his fault,” Ramirez said.
Tanner had learned to sit at a fish ladder on the Columbia River and feast on endangered Chinook salmon near the Bonneville Dam.
“He was an animal that was accused of stealing a lot of endangered salmon,” he said.
Ramirez said a lot of sea lions are being captured and killed when they’re known to feast on salmon.
“Many of us in the zoological community stepped forward, and said ‘We have facilities, we can house these animals, you don’t have to put them to sleep,’” he said.
The second new sea lion at the Shedd is Cruz, a 60-pound pup who was rescued from a beach in California. He’d been blinded by a gunshot.
“Just like a blind person might use a cane to feel around, he uses his whiskers,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez has been using a rattle to train Cruz, who’s been at the Shedd since December. He said Cruz can teach a basic lesson.
“We still have lots of people who just do stupid things. You know, shoot an animal for no reason,” Ramirez said. “The story he tells is a very important one.”
Because Cruz is blind, he would not have been able to fend off predators, or find food, so a zoo or aquarium like the Shedd was the only option for keeping him alive.