Visually impaired sea lions from California join New Orleans’ Audubon Zoo

One of two partially blind sea lions at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.
(Jonathan Vogel / Audubon Nature Institute)

Two visually impaired 2-year-old sea lions have joined the four sea lions already at the zoo in New Orleans.

Ayah and Jolee were malnourished when they were rescued along the California coast in June 2017, according to the Audubon Zoo.

Jolee has cataracts and had an injury in her left eye when she was found on a jetty near El Segundo.


She gets around by following Ayah, who was rescued off Malibu. She lost her left eye to a bullet, which was found in her brain after she arrived and didn’t cause any brain damage.

They’re now swimming with Lilli, 31, and three 6-year-olds: male Huey and females Zoey and Roux.

Both newcomers were nursed back to health at the Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles.

“Audubon literally saved their lives by accepting them,” said the center’s staff veterinarian, Lauren Palmer. “For me, these two animals are all about resilience. New Orleans is a perfect home for them.”

The zoo staff named the pair. Ayah means “miracle” in Arabic, and Jolee sounds like joli, French for “pretty.”

“They are already amazing ambassadors for their species, and we hope their stories will inspire our guests to be more aware of how humans impact our fragile oceans and what we all can do to help,” said Audubon’s sea lion curator, Courtney Eparvier.