POWELL, OH (WCMH) — After nearly three years of construction, the newest exhibit at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Adventure Cove, is set to open Friday.
NBC4’s Hattie Hawks was the first reporter to step foot in the new attraction got a sneak peek.
The sea lions were brought from China to Florida where they stayed for two years training for the job they have now.
“They were our life. A lot of us lived on site. We were with them all of the time. Seeing them they are really awesome animals. I’m honestly getting a little emotional right now,” said Shane Gilbert who was one of a few trainers selected by the zoo.
He packed his bags and lived away from his wife for those two years of training. “for me when I was asked to join the team, it is indescribable. This has been my dream to work with these animals.
The opening of this exhibit is not only a dream for him but a dream to the entire zoo.
“If it looks like i”m beaming its because I am,” said Suzie Rapp the Vice President of Animal Programs. Looking at the exhibit it is hard not to smile as you watch the sea lions belly-flopping, high fiving, and smooching their trainers like they are best friends.
“These were incredible animals and we knew they would be perfect for what we were trying to achieve. People are going to come here and you are going to see them jumping out of the water, you are going to see them laying out, you are going to hear our males,” said Gilbert.
The exhibit will also have an underwater viewing area featuring a 60-foot long tunnel that offers guests 360-degree views of the sea lions swimming below and basking above.
There will also be a presentation area with a tall diving rock for sea lions, a lighthouse for flighted bird presentations and a themed presentation and pool area.
Adventure Cove also features Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village which over 50 different species from around the world.
“This brand-new area creates a highly-enriched and ever-changing environment for diverse species, including sloths, African penguins, bat-eared foxes, cheetahs, tortoises, toucans and more,” the zoo released in a statement.
For information on the zoo’s hours and current guidelines, go to ColumbusZoo.org.