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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, April 21, 2009

Arctic Returns Home!

Arctic, the Steller sea lion pup rescued by the Center last summer, has been released back into the wild!

Last summer Arctic was found only days old, malnourished and abandoned by her mother. Umbilical cord still attached, she was brought to The Marine Mammal Center where she was treated for malnourishment and taught the necessities of being a sea lion (tracking and catching fish, socializing with other sea lions, etc.) Due to their high intelligent levels, sea lions are highly susceptible to habituation. Because of this, Arctic remained in a quarantined area separate from humans in hopes that she will perceive humans as "intruders" to her environment.

The day before her release, black hair dye was used to mark her (which she will eventually molt off), and she was fitted with a satellite tracking device for TMMC to gain valuable information about her whereabouts and dive depths (to make sure she is foraging for food). She weighed in at 91 kgs (200 lbs)…a big difference from the 19 kgs (43 lbs) she came to TMMC as!

At her release, TMMC stranding team members reported that she was exploring the island, all rocks and crevices. She ventured down to the water where she stuck her head in a couple of times and dove in! She began playing with a yearling elephant seal and she was also seen trying to eat something in the water. So it seems her initial experience back on the island was a great one!

Steller sea lion pups are especially rare patients of TMMC, due to the distant locations of their breeding grounds. Arctic was a special patient here at TMMC because the Steller sea lion population has dropped by 80% in the last 30 years and is now classified as a threatened species.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's Official...Seahawk is Going to be a Proud Pop!

Seahawk as a pup found stranded on a tent. Photo submitted by Mary Ann Finger

Seahawk stands proud at The Pittsburgh Zoo.

It's official! The ultrasound results are in revealing that Seahawk and mate "Zoey" are expecting a pup!

Seahawk, a California sea lion, is a former rescue patient of The Marine Mammal Center. Found orphaned at an early age, Seahawk was rehabilitated for malnourishment. He was a unique case because despite release efforts, he re-stranded multiple times. It is not known why exactly this happens, but when it does The Center tries its best to find the animal a new home. Because of this, Seahawk was taken to the Pittsburgh Zoo for his permanent digs.

Now, 4 years old and weighing in at over 200 lbs, he has successfully bred with 14 year old pen mate Zoey; making him a soon-to-be dad! The expected pup will be Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium's first ever California sea lion pup to be born at the Zoo. Keepers and officials are preparing for the new arrival that should happen some time this summer by making the pen more "pup friendly".

We're excited here at TMMC to hear the recent news, and eager to report any new developments about Seahawk and his new family!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cinta, Tilley, and First Elephant Seals Rehabilitated at New Marine Mammal Center Facilities Released Back to Their Ocean Home!

Animals loaded into TMMC rescue truck. Photo by Nicole Lee
California sea lion, Tilley, sees her ocean home again!    Photo by Bob Wilson

Cinta, an endangered Guadalupe fur seal, is released back into the wild. Photo by Nicole Lee
Two of the first Elephant seal pups rehabilitated at the new MMC facilities are released. Photo by Nicole Lee

Last Friday The Marine Mammal Center released four patients back to their ocean homes. The animals released included Cinta, an endangered Guadalupe fur seal; Tilley, a California sea lion that suffered a terrible entanglement, and two of the first Elephant seal pup patients rehabilitated at the new MMC!

The release happened in the early afternoon and many on-lookers got a special treat to see the animals returning to their natural home. A special thanks goes out to the beach goers who pitched in a helping hand!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dead Orca Calf Washes up Near Monterey Bay

Dead orca found floating near Monterey Bay. Photo credit: TMMC volunteer

Last Sunday a report of an orca (more commonly known as a killer whale) found floating on the rocks near Monterey Bay came into The Marine Mammal Center. Due to weather conditions the carcass was inaccessible until Wednesday, April 8. When news that the orca would be towed to shore came in, the Center's lead veterinarian Dr. Frances Gulland and team along with a team from Moss Landing met at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories to perform a necropsy on the remains. The orca, although partially decomposed, was identified as a female calf weighing approximately 300 kg or about 660 lb.  The cause of death remains unknown as does the pod/sub-species origination. While all orcas may bear the same black and white markings, there are actually three distinct sub-species of orcas. Transient orcas, known to swim as far as 250 miles a day travelling in groups of up to 7 individuals; eat other marine mammals and are commonly seen along the western coast. Offshore orcas typically travel in groups of 30-60 individuals, are rarely seen, and eat a diet consisting primarily of fish. Resident orcas, such as the southern (endangered) and northern residents, reside 9 months out of the year in the Pacific Northwest, but have been known to travel as far south as Monterey Bay in search of plentiful salmon runs. While this small calf is an orca, more identification studies will need to be conducted to see which pod she originated from. It is rare to find a dead orca because they typically sink, however, information gathered from the carcass could give whale researchers new insight into toxin levels and other useful information that could otherwise not be gathered. The Marine Mammal Center and other whale researchers hope to learn more about the cause of death and origin of this small calf.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cinta the Guadalupe Fur Seal on the Road to Recovery!!

Balloon debris removed from seal. Photo by Sue PembertonCinta 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.