It was nearly a shark attack in reverse.
A sea lion escaped from its holding tank to swim in an adjacent shark exhibit tank at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium on Wednesday, but was lured back to its tank without injury to him or the eight sand tiger sharks in the exhibit.
The 3-year-old male sea lion named Seahawk had been moved to a backup area next to the shark exhibit to keep him from bothering a pregnant sea lion in the Kids Kingdom sea lion exhibit when he jumped onto a high wall then fell into a keeper escape area, hitting a handle on the door to the shark exhibit on the way down.
The door popped open and the sea lion went in for a swim with the sharks for just a couple of minutes, according to Tracy Gray, a zoo spokeswoman, before he was lured back to his tank by keepers with buckets of fish.
Barbara Baker, zoo president and chief executive officer, said keepers were concerned that the sea lion would nip at the sharks. The sand sharks had no interest in Seahawk and kept their distance, she said.
In the wild, sea lions live on the west coast in the Pacific Ocean, while sand tiger sharks live in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast.
The pregnant sea lion, Zoey, a 14-year-old female, is due to deliver sometime this month or in June.