California Sea Lions: the excitement and happiness of diving with one or many of these guys never grows thin for me.
As such, California must take care of their own…
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit dedicated to helping stranded and injured sea mammals along the California Coast. You can check out one of their facilities on Laguna Canyon Road, in Laguna Beach, California. Probably, you will see sea lion pups and mature sea lions frolicking in pools of water, biding their time and gobbling up fish, to size up a weight class, and be re-released into the ocean.
This season has seen a huge increase in sea lion pups in need of assistance. Last year around this time, the PMMC was helping out 6 pups. Currently? 40 pups. Most came in emaciated, dehydrated, and abandoned by their mothers.
The center can’t say definitively why there is an increase in pups needing TLC this time of year, but they can speculate. Traditionally, more pups come in during Autumn, after they are born, and in Spring when their mothers wean them…so why now, in this in between time, are pups being found in dire distress on the beach?
One theory is that mama sea lions are being forced to travel further and further out to sea to find food. Another is that, even if mama sea lion is not leaving for long periods of time, she is not getting enough fish to eat to supply her babe with nutrient rich milk.
The goal of the center is not to get all lovey dovey with the adorable pups, and it’s definitely not to raise them to be transferred to zoos or, even worse, Seaworld. The goal is rehabilitate them, and as such, there is minimal to no human contact that takes place during a rehabilitation.
And in the final days, when pups are fat and healthy, and competing with each other for food,they are fitted with color coded tags, to show that they had been rehabilitated, and from where, and then re-released, hopefully not to be seen again.
But i think one of the most important things the PMMC gets to do it is research the animals that are coming in, take notes on the behavior and condition of animals, and record it, so that future years may begin to spot patterns in events. For instance, although the mortality rate for pups born last summer (2012) may be up to 60%, particularly bad seasons can be followed by particularly good seasons, as noted by Sharon Melin, a marine biologist.
Here’s hoping this season’s pups make it through as best they can, and that the future of the California Sea Lion is in good hands.
do you like diving with sea lions?
information on the Pacific Marine Mammal Center can be found on their website, if you are interested in donating, volunteering, or just visiting.
And the content of this article was brought to my attention by an LA Times article on the subject.