June 5, 2020

Duke and Maverick

How Two of the Zoo’s Rescued Sea Lions Can Inspire Ocean Conservation

By Meryt Schumacher, Carnivore Keeper


As one of the keepers for our pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), ocean conservation is always top of mind. We are so happy to celebrate World Ocean’s Day because the animals that we care for are ambassadors for the marine mammals that live in the ocean. Ocean health is very important because everything is connected—our waterways in Colorado connect to the ocean and the fish that we eat comes from the ocean. We especially have a deep appreciation for the ocean because three of the sea lions at Denver Zoo are rescues, and two of them were affected by issues that impact ocean conservation—overfishing and plastic pollution.

Duke and Maverick came to Denver Zoo in 2015 from The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC) in California.  For both Duke and Maverick, being at TMMC was the second time that they had been at a rescue center. The first time they were found stranded, meaning that they were on the beach unable to find food, which made them very tired and hungry. Luckily, they were found by their first rescue center, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC), and were brought back into good health. Since both had gained weight and were healthy at the end of their stay at PMMC, they were given a second chance and released back to the ocean. Unfortunately, Duke and Maverick stranded again and were found by TMMC. During this second stranding, Duke also had fishing line wrapped around his neck. Since they had stranded once before, it was decided that they should come and live at Denver Zoo.

Duke and Maverick’s story reminds us all that we have a choice in the products we consume and that we can all do our part to help ocean animals. One way to help, as a seafood lover, is to download the Seafood Watch App from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which not only lists sustainable seafood options, but also lets you know what varieties to avoid. It allows you to make ocean-friendly choices when buying seafood products, and helps safeguard the seafood supply for humans and the animals that rely on it in the wild.

If you don’t eat seafood, there are still things you can do to help ocean animals. Being responsible and making good plastic choices is a great way to help oceans. Every year, billions of pieces of plastic end up in our oceans, which can be detrimental to ocean animals. Try to use reusable products like bottles, bags and straws to reduce your plastic waste whenever possible. And if you can’t use reusable products, make sure to always recycle and put your trash in the trash bin. Here are some other simple ways you can make an impact: https://denverzoo.org/savewildlife/.

There is a stronger connection between the choices you make here in Colorado and the lives of ocean animals than you might think. Please join us in celebrating the World Oceans Day by considering your role in ocean conservation!



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