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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/

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Arctic Goes Goldfishing

Arctic, the endangered Steller sea lion that the Center has raised from a pup after maternal separation, has been growing, and her caretakers have been working hard to wean her and get her to catch and eat fish, a skill she will need when she is released to the wild.

Arctic is in a quarantined area of the hospital to minimize her contact with humans. This is necessary because as an intelligent animal, she is susceptible to habituation. It is important that she stays away from humans when she is released and sees them as a threat. So far, the very strict rules in place that shield Arctic from the humans that care for her have worked. She was fed a bottle through the fence as a pup to minimize her contact with humans, was socialized with other sea lions, and clearly does not like the few designated people who have to enter the pen to feed her or perform necessary cleaning and/or medical exams. This is a good thing, and will increase her chances for successful reintegration into the wild population.

In their process of getting Arctic to learn to track and catch fish, her caretakers recently released live goldfish into her pool. In this rare video glimpse of her (shot with a zoom lens), you can see Arctic charging Veterinary Intern Nicola, who dumps the goldfish in her pool. While not too fun for Nicola, it's a behavior veterinarians like to see, as it shows she's not too fond of humans in her pen. Arctic then tracks the little fish through her pool and vocalizes loudly at the end, possibly in protest of having to contend with catching fish rather than having her bottle. This vocalization is an excellent example of what a Steller sea lion sounds like. P.S. If you look closely, you can see a goldfish in Arctic's mouth when she vocalizes! Proof she can catch the quick little fish!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Neat. I think later tonight I'm going to make Arctic's vocalizations my Windows default beep.