Welcome to our blog!

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/

Friday, May 21, 2010

Happy Anniversary Sea Lions!

May 21, 2010
Today The Marine Mammal Center and Pier 39 celebrated the 20th anniversary of the sea lions' arrival to their now famous perch in San Francisco.

With 400 cupcakes and sea lion party hats, it was indeed a joyous occasion. This special anniversary is not only for the sea lions - it also honors the symbiotic partnership between the Center and Pier 39. The Center helps to maintain a healthy sea lion community at Pier 39 and educate the public about the connections we all share with marine mammals and the oceans. Pier 39, in turn, expands the exposure of the Center's work to both visiting locals and tourists.

California sea lions first began to haul out at this spot in January of 1990, just after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Originally numbering only 10-50, the population quickly grew to over 300.

By 2009, there were 1,701 sea lions gathering at Pier 39. But then in November of last year, their numbers began to dwindle after a shift in food source location.

Slowly, the sea lions have started to migrate back to Pier 39. Now the distinctive barking can be heard at the Pier again. Just one more reason to celebrate today...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hospital Food Never Tasted So Good....

Watch this video of sea lions having lunch at The Marine Mammal Center.

May 12, 2010

Just the mere mention of "hospital food" doesn't typically conjure up strong hunger pangs. But here at The Marine Mammal Center lunch is a much anticipated event for both the marine mammals and the Center's visitors.

Feeding protocols vary for every patient at the Center. The type, amount and frequency of food each animal receives depends on the following: species, age, body condition, and specific medical problem.

Sometimes a patient will be suffering from dehydration upon arrival at the Center. The staff and volunteers give the animal an electrolyte solution for rehydration. The electrolyte solution is given either orally or under the skin.

Then the feeding regimen can begin. Pups receive formula via a tube. A volunteer inserts a soft, flexible feeding tube into the marine mammal's stomach via its esophagus.

Once pups have stabilized and their teeth have erupted, they go to "fish school" - volunteers offer easy to "catch" thawed frozen fish. The fish may be dragged through the pool on a string or held with forceps.

Over time, the pup moves on to the next stage: free-feeding. This means the pup must compete with others to get the fish.

Before a patient can be released, he must be able to forage for food on his own. One technique used to ensure this is offering live fish in order to make certain that the animal can track, catch and eat on its own.

Once an animal is free-feeding, volunteers put the fish in the pool and let the animal eat on its own. This competition with other patients simulates most closely what life will be like once they are released back into the ocean.

Bon appetit!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Harbor Seal Imani Returns Home!

Imani heads toward the ocean during his release on May 5, 2010.

Cinco de Mayo 2010 had an added layer of celebration this year: May 5, 2010, was the release date for harbor seal Imani and five other marine mammals. Sea lion Dubois and elephant seals Wrigleyville, Arizona Rhonda, Borderline and Jayde Shepard were released on a gorgeous Wednesday in Pt. Reyes, California.

Imani's story is especially timely. He is a shining example of a marine mammal getting a second chance at life at The Marine Mammal Center. When Imani arrived in early March, he was so young and vulnerable that he still had part of his umbilical cord attached. However, two months later, Imani had more than doubled his weight and learned to feed from a dedicated 24/7 team of staff and volunteers. And because Imani was thriving, he was able to leave the Center's hospital and return to his ocean home.

Although Imani has left, the Center currently still has 65 harbor seals still on-site. How can you help? There are many ways to get involved:

Become a volunteer! We can always use extra hands to help feed these animals. No prior animal care experience necessary. We'll provide you with all the training you will need. See http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/what-you-can-do/volunteer/

Donate! It costs a lot to feed these animals. Join the Dollar-a-Pound challenge today and help us achieve our goal. See http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/about-us/organization-information/awareness-campaigns/dollar-a-pound.html

Learn about our Leave Seals Be campaign and find out what to do if you spot a pup. See http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/about-us/organization-information/awareness-campaigns/

Monday, May 3, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing? 61 Harbor Seals at The Marine Mammal Center!

A close-up of a group of harbor seal patients currently at The Marine Mammal Center.

Can you have too much of a good thing? The Marine Mammal Center currently has 61 harbor seals on-site. To put that number in perspective, in 2009 the Center admitted a total of 106 harbor seals during the entire year. In 2010 so far, the Center has already admitted 81 harbor seals.

When you come to the Center, you will not see the harbor seal pups. This is because the pups are especially fragile and sensitive to human disturbance. By placing them out of public view, we can limit the impact of human activity on these delicate animals.

But don't despair! There are plenty of other animals on-site and well within public view. Between the 23 California sea lions and the 64 elephant seals, you're guaranteed an eyeful - and an earful! The marine mammals' antics and cackles will keep you entertained and mesmerized for quite some time. Come visit us! We're open to the public daily from 10am until 5pm, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.