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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/

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sgt. Nevis's Story Touches Volunteer Sandy Fagin's Heart

Sgt. Nevis has a face anybody could love.
This week's blog is based on the writing of volunteer Sandy Fagin who was moved by the story of Sgt. Nevis.
I have been an education docent for five years at The Marine Mammal Center. Although I live in Sacramento, my passion for the ocean and marine mammals has driven me to confront torrential rainstorms, horrible traffic jams, and a rear-end collision to get my Center "fix".
One day I was at work when I saw the TV image of an obviously injured sea lion who turned out to be Sgt. Nevis. I was immediately hooked: fueled by anger for an unconscionable act and overwhelmed by sadness for an animal that tugs at my heart in a way that I don't even understand.
As the story progressed, I followed every rescue attempt. I cried at each failed rescue attempt and then again when he was finally weak enough to be successfully rescued. I was happy that he was in the best possible hands but still seething at the act that caused his suffering.
One day when I was at the Center, I saw Sgt. Nevis lift his head, look me straight in the eye, and lower his head back to the ground. The reports at this point in time were not good, and I thought for sure that this would be the last time that I would see him.
Happily, over time, Sgt. Nevis grew stronger and a home was found for him at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. The day before he was to leave for Six Flags, I had the opportunity to serve as a docent on that day and found it to be the most meaningful four hours of my five years of volunteering. What I saw was a 650 pound sea lion taking fish from Center Stranding Manager Shelbi Stoudt in a manner that was more gentle than a dog being fed.
As Shelbi worked with Sgt. Nevis, I was astounded by his intelligence and grace - even at 650 pounds.
I had mixed emotions when he was moved to Six Flags. I was happy that he was healthy but sad that he couldn't return to the ocean. In the end, I'm not sure why Sgt. Nevis is such an important part of me. Maybe it's the love I feel for all animals and the even stranger attraction I have for sea lions, coupled with the brutal actions of man against animal.
My sadness and anger has turned to happiness. I am happy that Sgt. Nevis is healthy and safe. I am happy that the justice system has not allowed this appalling, unlawful act to go unpunished. I am happy that Sgt. Nevis has been a part of my life. Finally, I am happiest and proud to be a part of the Marine Mammal Center, and all of the wonderful and unselfish things that they do to protect and help these beautiful, innocent animals.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Gala: An Evening to Celebrate Merrill Magowan

The Marine Mammal Center Director of Veterinary Science Dr. Bill Van Bonn celebrates with his wife Anna (on the right) and Center Veterinary Intern Dr. Vanessa Fravel.

The Marine Mammal Center's 14th Annual Gala and Auction was a night to remember. Guests wore festive cocktail attire to spend an evening celebrating the spectacular contributions of Merrill Magowan and his family to the Center. Many people wore various shades of bright orange to acknowledge the Giants' recent exciting wins in baseball.

Merrill Magowan and his wife Cinnie came with many of their family members to honor Merrill as the Center's immediate past Chairman. The festive evening included a special "salute" to Merrill and his incredible life. His brother, Peter Magowan, hosted a fun "$64,000 Question" game show episode to show off Merrill's phenomenal knowledge of all things baseball.

The evening also included a Merrill-themed auction inspired by his life which featured amazing adventures and once-in-a-lifetime treats, such as the opening pitch at the Giants game or a week in Hawaii, Spain or Italy - your choice!

A formal beef dinner, cocktails, live music and a dessert buffet completed the evening. If you missed it this year, join us in 2011 for the next Gala!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sgt. Nevis Undergoes Reconstructive Surgery Today

Sgt. Nevis during his stay at The Marine Mammal Center.

Today Sgt. Nevis had first-of-its-kind reconstructive surgery to close the open gunshot wound on his face. You might recall that Sgt. Nevis was the California sea lion that was seriously injured when he was shot by a fisherman in the Sacramento River 10 months ago. In fact, the Center rescued and treated 18 marine mammals, including Sgt. Nevis, that were shot with bullets and pellets last year.

Sadly, that gunshot injury was so severe that it prevented Sgt. Nevis from diving or putting his head under water. It even forced him to modify his breathing. In addition, he was at risk of infection and he wouldn't be able to return to the ocean because he couldn't dive to feed himself.

In fact, this inability to return to the wild was the impetus for the decision to place him at Six Flags in Vallejo, CA. It was at Six Flags that today's surgery was performed. Dr. Praful Ramenini, a human reconstructive surgeon from Washington D.C., flew in to perform the surgery and generously donated his time and services to the effort. He was supported by Center Veterinarian Dr. Bill Van Bonn and Six Flags park veterinary staff.

The surgical team loosened skin just above the wound and stretched it over the open wound during the two hour procedure, with the almost 700-pound marine mammal fully anesthetized. Sgt. Nevis will spend three to four days in dry recovery at Six Flags' Vet Clinic quarantine room before being transferred back to the Seal Cove exhibit.

Speaking of Seal Cove, Sgt. Nevis is already a favorite amongst park staff. He's described as being gentle, patient, smart and quick to learn. In fact, he already has a routine established: he tends to hang out at the exhibit's "beach" with the young female sea lions, Ella and Indigo!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Coastal Clean-Up Day Removes 164 Pounds of Trash from Rodeo Beach!

Volunteers armed with plastic gloves and trash bags head down to the sand to collect ocean trash on Coastal Clean-Up Day 2010.

It was unusually hot on Rodeo Beach, but the weather made for some very productive ocean trash collection on this year's Coastal Clean-Up Day. About 165 volunteers gathered 164 pounds of ocean trash -- that's approximately one pound per volunteer!
What kinds of things were collected? First, 98 pounds of trash were removed. Second, 16 pounds of rusty metal and 50 pounds of wood with nails were collected. In addition, half a table from a boat was found and removed. That brought the grand total of trash up to 164 pounds! But that's not all. The energetic volunteers also collected 8 pounds of recycling.
As usual, some odd items were found: an ear plug, a Halloween spider ring, and a metal snap tie for foundations.
Thank you to everyone who came and helped out! If you weren't able to come, remember that every day of the year can be a coastal clean-up day. There are so many easy things we can do to incorporate this mindset into our everyday activities.