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The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit veterinary hospital, research, and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals and the study of their health. Since 1975, the Center has rescued and treated more than 16,500 marine mammals and has accumulated a body of knowledge about marine mammal and ocean health. Through public education about marine mammals, the Center hopes to foster ocean stewardship and conservation. For more information, visit http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sick sea lions along the coast

Clockwise: A California sea lion rest on a dock in San Francisco. Water Rescue Team members from The Marine Mammal Center use a special net to capture a sea lion. TMMC veterinarian Nicola Pussini collects blood samples from one sea lion before releasing it back to the water. A successful capture. NMFS Permit # 932-1489-10. Photos: The Marine Mammal Center
Larger numbers of California sea lions are stranding along the coast this year as a result of a bacterial infection called leptospirosis, and that's keeping staff and volunteers here very busy rescuing and administering treatment. The disease affects the kidneys of these animals, and in many cases causes death. Cases of leptospirosis appear every year, with outbreaks every 4-5 years. The Center is advancing its studies of the disease by collecting blood samples from juvenile sea lions in the wild. The data from these samples will help the Center understand more about the susceptibility of sea lions in the population during an epidemic and clarify the relationship between the stranded sea lions with leptospirosis seen here at the Center and those that are susceptible in the population. Collaborators in this new study include the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, University of California Los Angeles, University of California at Davis, Penn State University, and the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Searching Fur a Cure

Left, a weak fur seal is tube fed. Right, Jasper Johns in his pen.

The Marine Mammal Center has started getting in northern fur seal patients lately, and if the condition of these malnourished specimens is any indication, we may see more arriving in the next period. Already, there are 5 fur seals currently being treated on site, 1 on his way, a few that have died in past weeks, and 1 very small and sick fur seal that unfortunately died today. "Jasper Johns" as he was nicknamed, was so weak and ill that he had to be tube fed. Unfortunately, his body could not hold out. He had a seizure this morning and died shortly thereafter.

The Center sees a spike in the number of fur seal patients it rescues in some years, but it's unknown exactly what causes this spike and what factors are affecting their health and/or normal feeding patterns in the wild.

In the mean time, veterinarians and volunteers have their hands full caring for this unique species. Fur seals are small and often appear to be harmless, but in fact, can be extremely aggressive and quick. With razor sharp teeth, they really keep their caretakers on their toes!

Fur seals are actually in the same family as sea lions, rather than seals, because they have external ear flaps and can walk on their hind flippers, so their name is somewhat of a misnomer. Learn more about northern fur seals here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Puttin' on the Ritz

Left: Alexandra Gordon, Beth Inadomi and guitarist Freddy Clarke
Right: Beverly Spector and Mark Yudof
Photos: Drew Altizer

Left: Cinnie and Merrill Magowan
Right: Frances Gulland - Dir. Vet. Science TMMC, Jeff Boehm - Exec. Dir. TMMC
Photos: Drew Altizer

People are still talking about the fun they had at the Center's 12th Annual Gala this week. This year's theme, "A Celebration of Interdependence", could not have been more appropriate as we near completion of our new headquarters and continue to advance our knowledge about marine mammal health in hopes of helping future generations of pinnipeds. We held the gala in a new venue this year - the elegant Ritz Carlton hotel in San Francisco. It was an elegant evening with nearly 300 guests dressed in their finest enjoying full-bodied wines donated by Heitz Cellars and Spring Winery as well as a scrumptious three-course meal. We thank everyone who attended and helped with the event, as well as our gala sponsors. We raised approximately $160K thanks to your generosity!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Aww Shucks!

The 15th Annual McCormick & Kuleto's Shuck & Swallow Oyster Challenge at Ghiradelli Square was great fun this week. Bay Area radio personality Sterling James emceed the event while teams from local restaurants competed against each other to see who could "shuck & swallow" the most oysters in 10 minutes. The Marine Mammal Center was the beneficiary of the event, hosted by McCormick & Kuleto's Seafood Restaurant. The winning team (from Farallon Restaurant) shucked and gulped down 155 oysters - an amazing feat indeed! Afterwards, nearly 250 guests and supporters attended the oyster & wine pairing.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

At the Ready

Left, Lincoln Shaw makes the capture. Right, the rescue team pose after a successful rescue at Fort Mason. Photo: Marie DeStefanis, Tuesday Day Crew.

The Marine Mammal Center has some incredibly dedicated volunteers. On Tuesday, the animal care day crew was coming off of a long and tiring shift feeding and cleaning pens when the Stranding Department announced that there was an animal at Fort Mason in San Francisco that needed to be rescued. The crew jumped into action and instead of heading home as planned, headed over the Golden Gate Bridge and met another volunteer at the stranding site. At Fort Mason, the team was able to rescue the animal from the rocks. He has been nicknamed "Tuesday Day" after the team and is suspected of having leptospirosis.