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What is the Story of Rhonda the Sea Lion?

In 1946 a sea lion escaped Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island. To this day, it is believed she lived a long and free life.

Rhonda, a sea lion, once escaped from an urban zoo in Providence, Rhode Island, and was never found. She crossed a few park lakes, walked nearly two miles on land, climbed small cliffs, and arrived at a river that ran into a bay and then the ocean.

Seal or Sea Lion?

In case you were wondering, there are a few differences between sea lions and seals. Along with their distant cousin, the walrus, these mammals are part of the pinniped group of mammals. The term pinniped is derived from the Latin word that  translates to “fin-footed.” (Source: Ocean Service)

The main difference between a sea lion and a seal is that sea lions have visible ears. In addition, sea lions possess small flaps for outer ears, whereas the seal has only tiny holes on the sides of their heads.

Next, you will notice that sea lions “walk” while seals crawl on their bellies. Sea lions have elongated fore flippers used to stand, compared to the seal’s stubby front feet.

Another difference between the two sea mammals is that sea lions “bark” while seals grunt.

And finally, seals are genetically programmed to live more in the water than sea lions. This genetic programming leads seals to live solitarily than their more social cousin, the sea lions. (Source: Ocean Service)

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Roger Williams was an English colonist and the founder of the colony of Rhode Island. Williams was also known as a pioneer in religious liberty, pursuing his nonconformist religious ideals.

Williams established the town of Providence in Rhode Island in around 1636 after different areas such as Boston, Plymouth, Salem, and Massachusetts, to name a few. (Source: Britannica)

The Roger Williams Park Zoo is the third oldest zoo in the nation and was named after Williams. The zoo first started in 1872 when Williams’ great-great-great-granddaughter entrusts her 102-acre land to the public. It first opened its doors to the public in 1872. The zoo allowed the public an opportunity for a closer look at wildlife. Animals such as raccoons, guinea pigs, squirrels, hawks, and peacocks were among the few featured when the park first opened. (Source: RWPZoo)

The Great Escape

Sea lions were notorious for escaping their captive lifestyles in zoos throughout recorded history. Several reports of sea lions escaping their zoo cages only to be returned later that day.

But the most extraordinary escape story is Rhonda’s from Rhode Island. Rhonda escaped The Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence Island in 1946.

It was a Tuesday afternoon that Rhonda managed to break free from the Park’s seal house. She proceeded into the various lakes within the park but ultimately was not satisfied.

Accounted for in the Providence Journal of 1946, Rhonda traveled a long distance to her freedom. It was reported that Rhonda traveled on both land and water to Pawtuxet Cove, which was around 2 miles from the Seal House in the park zoo she was housed in. She was seen climbing three-foot walls and fences and finally made her way to the Providence River then to Narragansett Bay. That was the last place she was accounted for. She has not been seen ever since. (Source: WBSM)

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