|Balloon debris removed from seal. Photo by Sue Pemberton||Cinta the Guadalupe fur seal with balloon debris. Photo by Sue Pemberton|
It's likely you remember a time when as a child you received a shiny new balloon. "Now hold tight and don't let it go!"; the famous last words given to every child by their caregivers before the inevitable happens. The balloon, whether accidentally or purposely, takes flight into the infinite cloudy abyss, creating a potentially harmful environmental effect and a grief stricken child. This week was a reminder of the potential dangers of what can happen when something as small as a balloon isn't properly disposed of.
After responding to the report of a tangled seal, the stranding crew arrived on the beach to assess the situation. Crew leader Sue Pemberton was immediately puzzled. Reports of entanglements are typically for sea lions, due to their curious nature. This was no sea lion. There, curled up just above the tide line, was a tiny endangered Guadalupe fur seal. She was wrapped in a balloon ribbon.
The stranding crew quickly made arrangements for the seal to be transported to The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. Luckily, the balloon ribbon had not penetrated the skin, and could be removed carefully with small scissors. Fur seals are unique in that they use their dense pelt to thermoregulate. If the ribbon would have broken through the skin, the seal would have been unable to stay warm.
The seal, named Cinta (spanish for "ribbon"), is eating well and expected to make a full recovery. She will be released back into the wild soon. Cinta is only the 37th Guadalupe fur seal that The Marine Mammal Center has rescued.