After two to three months of rehabilitation at SeaWorld San Diego’s Animal Rescue Center, nine sea lions rescued by SeaWorld this year from San Diego County beaches were returned to their ocean home on Earth Day today, Friday, April 22, 2016. The animals were successfully rehabilitated by animal care specialists and veterinarians at the park’s Animal Rescue Center. The sea lions were found malnourished and dehydrated on local beaches earlier this year.
Due to El Niño and an ongoing Unusual Mortality Event with California sea lions, SeaWorld is continuing to see a higher-than-normal number of strandings on local beaches. Because the younger animals are finding it difficult to find food, they become emaciated. Their hydration comes from the fish they eat, so when they are malnourished, they also become dehydrated.
While SeaWorld is rescuing several different marine mammal species, the most common is the California sea lion. The sea lion pups, approximately nine months old, are found emaciated, malnourished, dehydrated and extremely lethargic. Some are also suffering from hypothermia, hypoglycemia, pneumonia and other illnesses that vulnerable animals can be susceptible to when their immune systems become compromised. SeaWorld’s animal care specialists and veterinarians are treating the animals with hydration, nutrition and, when necessary, antibiotics. The average length of time for rehabilitative care is six to eight weeks. Once they are of good weight, free from any secondary infections and able to competitively forage for food, the animals are returned to the ocean in areas where there is a known source of prey, giving them a second chance at life.
So far in 2106, SeaWorld San Diego has rescued more than 365 marine mammals, compared to 150 to 200 rescues made in a normal year.