How did Ronin come to live at the Zoo?
Ronin is an amazing success story that highlights the hard work that rescue centers and zoos do for wildlife. Ronin was found stranded on the coast of California in March 2022 and was brought in to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC). Her size indicated that she was less than a year old.
As Ronin was being rehabilitated, staff noticed that she was having difficulty swallowing her fish. Further examination by the veterinary team revealed Ronin lacked salivary glands necessary for her to effectively swallow her food. Being unable to feed herself, Ronin was deemed non-releasable.
A sea lion trainer from a nearby aquarium trained Ronin to swallow her fish. In that time, she made amazing progress—from staff physically assisting her with swallowing; to eating small pieces of fish on her own; to eventually learning how to swallow whole fish with no assistance.
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute has worked with PMMC in the past in acquiring rescue animals. We still have our 17-year-old female sea lion, Summer, who was rescued at just a few days old. Ronin has been an exciting addition to American Trail, and we are eager to share her story with visitors!
What is Ronin’s personality like?
Ronin is curious, playful and adaptable. She displays all of the typical behaviors of a juvenile sea lion and often interacts with the other sea lions. The past year of stranding, learning how to effectively eat, and now becoming a part of our training program have proven just how adaptable Ronin is to any situation.