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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, June 7, 2011

Five Elephant Seals Released... Ready to Meet Their Wild Brothers and Sisters!

Layla takes a rest moments after her release on Chimney Rock Beach. Seen here sniffing and chewing everything new in her surroundings, Layla rediscovers her love of playing with seaweed! (Photo-article: Dina Warren, volunteer, The Marine Mammal Center)

It was a day of joy, as five rehabilitated elephant seal patients were released back into their ocean home, on a calm, overcast morning, Friday, June 3, 2011, at Chimney Rock Beach, in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Layla, a young female pup, and four of her weaner pen-mates, Lindsey, Milo, Chantal, and Roark; were all released together, in an area where over 500 wild elephant seals were spotted, resting mostly on the inaccessible sandy beaches surrounding Drakes Bay.

These young elephant seals were rescued from various beaches throughout San Luis Obispo, San Francisco and Monterey counties. Each young seal was found alone, suffering from severe malnutrition. Once safely at the Center, it took them about 2 to 3 months to become fully rehabilitated, and strong enough to fend for themselves in the wild. "These pups came to us in pretty bad shape," said Ben Calvert, one of the Center's stranding and animal crew volunteers. "After being assessed by the veterinary staff, all five had to be rehydrated, using either tube-fed electrolytes or subcutaneous fluids. Then, after a period of tub-feeding using fish milkshakes, the young pinnipeds went through the different stages of fish school," added Calvert.

These young marine mammals, some less than 30 days old, did not have success discovering what and how to eat on their own. Therefore, they needed to "attend" what the Center calls, "fish school." First, the baby elephant seals have to be patiently, hand-fed whole fish. This is commonly done while they are out of the water -- on the floor of their enclosure. Next they have to learn how to accept fish, while in the water -- often in the shallow end of the pool. The final stage of "fish school" is when the seals are able to free-feed -- swimming and diving for fish that are tossed into their pools. Folks at the Center commonly call this, "graduating from fish school." It costs a dollar-a pound to feed these guys! But, it's worth every dime, especially when you get to see them so happy to be back in their ocean home - ready to meet their wild brothers and sisters! Good luck, gang!


Pat Ulrich said...

Congrats to the five released pups! I saw the MMC trucks in the Chimney Rock parking lot last Friday, and was hoping that is was for a release. As a proud member of your organization, it's always great to hear about these success stories!

The Marine Mammal Center said...

Thank you for your comment, Pat! It was a great day for our "ellies!"