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Seal & Sea Lion Habitat at the
Award-Winning Glacier Run

Sparkling pools of water…
Icy glaciers in the background…
The sharp sound of sea lions barking as they frolic and play…

This spacious, state-of-the-art exhibit was designed to house sea lions and seals. With 108,000 gallons of recycled salt water in the main pool, they are enjoying leisurely days of swimming, playing and basking in their new digs.

Zoo visitors are enjoying some creature comforts of their own. With both above-ground and underwater viewing available it is possible to see these fascinating animals from almost any angle. A 200 seat amphitheatre provides shaded seating for one of the three daily training and enrichment presentations.

The seals and sea lions will be on exhibit daily until 4:30 p.m.

Fun Facts About the Exhibit

  • The Seal and Sea Lion habitat has the potential to hold a total of 14 seals and sea lions.
  • The habitat’s state-of-the-art outdoor pool holds 108,000 gallons of salt water.
  • The pool depth ranges from 0 feet in the shallow end to 9 feet in the deep end.
  • The chilled salt water temperature is maintained at 66 degrees year round.
  • The salt water is recirculated through high-rate sand filters and ozone systems.
  • It took 25 tons of salt to acclimate the 108,000 gallon pool to the desired salinity. Salinity concentration is tested by staff on a regular basis using a digital refractometer. Sea water salinity is 32 parts per thousand. Drinking water has salinity of less than 0.5 parts per thousand. Salt water is equivalent to about 5 ounces of salt in 1 gallon of water.
  • The spacious, shaded seating for visitors in the amphitheater seats 200.
  • Most of the “wood” you see in the exhibit is in fact concrete painted to look like weathered wood.

Meet the Seals and Sea Lions

Glacier Run has the potential to house a total of 14 seals and sea lions. So far, the following pinnipeds call it their home (although more will join the group over time).

  • California Sea Lion
  • Born at the Louisville Zoo in 1993
  • He has just returned back home to the Louisville Zoo
  • Bart has a big personality. He is impressive in stature and can be a little pushy. He can also sometimes be a troublemaker.


  • Harbor seal
  • Born in 2002
  • She was relocated from the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska in 2010
  • Toney is currently the only seal and keepers describe her as “cute as a button.”


  • California Sea Lion
  • Born in 1990
  • He was relocated from the Birmingham Zoo in Alabama in 2010
  • Triton is very easy-going and likes to participate in training activities with his keepers.


  • California Sea Lion
  • Born in 2008 and relocated to the Louisville Zoo in 2010.
  • He was a stranded sea lion on the coast and rescued. After unsuccessful release efforts, he was relocated to the Louisville Zoo from The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Calif.
  • Kahula is mellow and even-tempered. He is young and has never had any formal training, so staff  working closely with him. Kahula is the foundation of what the Zoo hopes to be the start of a new harem of sea lions one day.
  • California Sea Lion
  • Born in 1987.
  • Relocated to the Louisville Zoo in 2010 from the St. Louis Zoo.


What is the difference between seals and sea lions?

Seals and sea lions are in the pinniped family. Pinnipeds are aquatic carnivorous mammal that have a streamlined body specialized for swimming with limbs modified as flippers. Here are some ways to tell the difference between a seal and sea lion:

Sea Lions

  • Have earflaps
  • Have long hairless front flippers
  • Have long smooth whiskers or vibrissae
  • Their hind flippers rotate underneath to allow them to be agile and walk quickly on land
  • They swim underwater using front flippers like wings of a bird


  • Have ear holes
  • Have short, hairy front flippers & long claws
  • Have whiskers that are crimped or beaded
  • They move awkwardly on land by wiggling on their bellies and keeping their hind flippers straight out
  • They swim by steering with fore flippers and powering with hind flippers

Learn more about the species in the Seal and Sea Lion Habitat