Sea lion blinded by shooting finds new home, buddy at San Francisco Zoo 

The blind sea lion who made headlines last year when he was shot in the face may soon be entertaining the masses from a pool at the San Francisco Zoo with another sightless sidekick.

Silent Knight, who was found on a Sausalito beach Dec. 8 with a gunshot wound to the head, could be coupled with Henry, a pinniped with an eye disease who nearly died from starvation off the shores of Crescent City about nine months ago.

Henry and Silent Knight are now rehabilitating in separate pens at Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center while they await placement.

The San Francisco Zoo is planning to rebuild its vacant sea lion pool next to the Rainforest Building within the next two months to secure the duo’s debut, Executive Director Tanya Peterson told the Recreation and Park Commission last week.

While officials from the zoo and the marine center were hesitant Tuesday to say more about the transition, both said the sea lions’ residency at the zoo is a mutual goal.

“They very much rely on their vision,” said Marine Mammal Center rescuer Scott Buhl. “The placement option is sort of a last resort, but it’s either that or we euthanize.”

The details are scheduled for discussion at a meeting of The City’s Joint Zoo Committee on Thursday.

If the transaction occurs, the sea lion pool, which has been part of the zoo since its construction in the 1930s, will apparently need some rehab. Back in 1999, a city performance audit recommended removing the vacant exhibit due to various deficiencies, according to Animal Control and Welfare Commission documents.

“What I can say is that it is another positive collaboration … and both directors are in support of the move,” zoo spokeswoman Lora LaMarca wrote in an e-mail. “We do not know the details of upgrades to the sea lion exhibit yet.”

Former zoo employee Ned McAllister said that while the pool is probably too shallow for the duo to swim in, the idea is still spot on.

“The zoo’s had a lot of problems and they’re trying to make right by saying, ‘Maybe we can save an animal’s life,’” McAllister said. “That’s the best role for a zoo.”

Meanwhile, whoever shot Silent Knight still remains at large. The sea lion’s likely future poolmate, Henry, suffered from an eye condition at a young age that left him blind.

In the meantime, Buhl said the two rehabilitating pinnipeds have been “acting like sea lions” again.
“You know, vocalizing when you’re hungry, lounging, in and out of the pool, swimming a bit,” he said. “I don’t believe there’s any great worry.”

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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Kamala Kelkar

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