Sea Lions' Deaths Tied to Lax Care

Times Staff Writer

Two sea lions who died earlier this month of heat exhaustion at the Aquarium of the Pacific were not watered down sufficiently to keep cool, an aquarium investigation found.

Two staff workers have resigned after the deaths of Kona, 4, and her 4-week-old pup at the Long Beach facility. The two sea lions died in their shaded nursery an hour after being bathed.

"A major contributing cause of the death of Kona and her pup on July 1 was that the animals were not watered down enough to keep them cool for that particular day, which resulted in heat exhaustion," aquarium officials said in a statement Monday.

The temperature near the nursery at the time was about 89 degrees, a degree higher than the previous day, and it was 94 degrees in the back portion of the aquarium, according to staff.

Both animals had elevated liver temperatures and signs of thermal shock in other internal organs, officials said.

"We're all involved in making sure this never happens again," said Jerry Schubel, the aquarium's president and chief executive.

In 2000, a 12-year-old sea lion named Brandie jumped to her death at the aquarium while workers cleaned her empty pool. The aquarium paid the government a $2,060 fine and redesigned its exhibit so that animals were moved to a holding area before cleaning.

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