Just a few days old and with no mother in sight, KP2, later renamed Hō’ailona, was rescued from a beach on the island of Kauai in 2008. This rare Hawaiian monk seal became the unofficial mascot for the mission to save his endangered species, of which only 1,100 seals currently remain. The Hawaiian monk seal is declining at a rate of 4% per year and without intervention, they will be gone from the planet within our lifetime.
Part of what makes Hō’ailona’s story so unique is the statistic that only one in five monk seal pups survives to adulthood. That is why rescue and care of injured or orphaned monk seals is essential. After rehabilitation, Hō’ailona was released on the island of Moloka’i. However, it soon became clear that he’d become too used to humans and also had developed a serious eye condition, so he was sent to Long Marine Laboratory (LML), part of University of California, Santa Cruz, for treatment and research.
Veterinarians at LML, along with staff and volunteers from The Marine Mammal Center, worked with Hō’ailona and learned a great deal. In 2011, he was sent to a permanent home at the Waikiki Aquarium where his presence brings awareness to the plight of this critically endangered species.
In 2012, The Marine Mammal Center broke ground on the Big Island in Hawaii for a facility dedicated to the care and conservation of Hawaiian monk seals. The name of this facility is Ke Kai Ola, or The Healing Sea. This facility is our greatest hope to save this species.
Curled up below a wharf in Morro Bay, California, this five-month old California sea lion pup was emaciated and entangled in fishing line. She had been pierced with a 16-inch crossbow arrow that remained lodged just above her shoulders. Following transfer to our main hospital in Sausalito, staff veterinarians removed the arrow, cleaned her wounds and immediately began antibiotic treatment. With the caring support of our volunteers, Arrow recovered and was released back into the wild. Sea lions are protected under the 1972 U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act that prohibits anyone from harming or disturbing marine mammals. Working in partnership with NOAA fisheries, the Center helped publicize the crime, posting a reward for information leading to an arrest. Several months later the guilty parties were identified, fined $4,000, and ordered to pay $2,200 in restitution to the Center.
In October 2012, this young California sea lion was spotted at the famous PIER 39 in San Francisco with a packing strap "noose" around his neck. Luckily, someone knew to call The Marine Mammal Center for help! Once back at our hospital, our skilled veterinarians removed the packing strap and cleaned the swollen wound. After a week of rest and food Blonde Bomber was ready to return to the wild, and was released at Rodeo Beach in Sausalito.
Cut the Loop!
Southern sea otters like Calloway are found along the central coast of California. They are a threatened species, with only an estimated 2,000 remaining. When Calloway was rescued, she was malnourished from being separated from her mother before weaning. Volunteers became Calloway's surrogate mother - bottle-feeding, monitoring swims, and helping her groom her thick fur. Sea otters have the thickest fur of any mammal with nearly one million hairs per square inch (humans have that much on their entrie head!) In the wild, young sea otters are hearty eaters and may devour up to 40 percent of their body weight each day to maintain body heat. The Center, along with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, nursed Calloway back to health.
This female northern elephant seal pup was found starving on a beach in San Luis Obispo County. Megan was not completely weaned from her mother, and as a result, could not feed on her own and survive in the wild. At the Center, she was fed fish mash – a fish milkshake of sorts consisting of salmon oil, herring, and cream. Eventually, Megan learned how to seek and eat whole fish as part of the Center’s “fish school” in which volunteers teach young elephant seals how to eat fish. Elephant seals are not born with the natural instinct to hunt and eat fish – they develop these skills by playing in the tide pools with other pups. Once Megan was healthy, she was released near Point Reyes National Seashore.
Weak and exhausted, Poppy, a northern fur seal pup, swam into San Francisco Bay and took a rest at a very busy Berkeley marina. Listed as a depleted species, northern fur seals spend most of their lives at sea and rarely come ashore on mainland beaches. Thankfully, several boaters noticed the malnourished pup and contacted the Center. After two and a half months of care, Poppy doubled her weight and resumed the feisty behavior typical of a healthy fur seal. She was released back into the wild and will hopefully produce offspring, helping to replenish the fur seal population.
Orphaned at six weeks of age, Repo, a southern sea otter pup, was rescued from a beach in Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo County. Because sea otter pups nurse for six months to a year and learn many skills from their mothers, orphans are extremely vulnerable. Highly specialized care is required for sea otters, including an expensive diet of prawns, chopped clams, and whole squid. When Repo arrived at The Marine Mammal Center, our volunteers provided 24-hour care, bottle-feeding him every three hours, monitoring swims, and helping Repo groom his thick, insulating fur. After six weeks at the Center, Repo was transferred to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to finish his rehabilitation with a surrogate sea otter mother. Once healthy, he was fitted with a radio transmitter and released back into the wild.
This Guadalupe fur seal pup was rescued from Stinson Beach in Marin County. The man that called in the rescue asked his daughters to name the pup, and they put together the names of their two favorite dolls – Lila and Rach. The fur seal was underweight and dehydrated when rescued, but after months of loving care by volunteers and staff, a healthy LilaRach was released at Drakes Beach near Point Reyes National Seashore. Guadalupe fur seals are a threatened species found mostly off the coast of Mexico and occasionally off the California coast. They were once hunted almost to extinction for their luxurious fur. Now protected by U.S. and Mexican law, the population has steadily increased to over 7,000.
This northern elephant seal pup rescued from Point Arena in Mendocino County. He still had a full black coat, indicating he was very young, since elephant seals shed their black coats a few weeks after birth. He had become separated from his mother, and was dehydrated and malnourished upon admission to our hospital. Most pups are fed fish milkshakes (ground up fish mixed with multi-milk formula and salmon oil) until they are at least one month old, but Cueball was very unique because he started eating solid fish just five days after being rescued. Cueball’s spunkiness earned him the Center's title of Animal of the Year. Within a month of his rescue, a fat and healthy Cueball was released at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Just days old and with no mother in sight, Astro, a Steller sea lion pup, had been spotted by a researcher at Año Nuevo Island, rescued and admitted to the Center. Volunteers began bottle feeding him a nutrient-rich formula made of ground fish, salmon oil, water and soy milk – all hand strained to remove the lumps. A second Steller was brought in from another rehabilitation facility to keep Astro company. The western Pacific population of Steller sea lions has been listed as a threatened species since 1997. The Center helps many endangered and threatened species in order to help the greater populations thrive in the wild.
This three to four year old bottlenose dolphin was underweight, suffering from dehydration and had a puncture wound on his snout when he was rescued at Baker Beach in San Francisco. When transported to a rehabilitation pool at the Center, he did not have the strength to swim on his own and was put into a floating support sling to prevent him from drowning. Through antibiotics, medications to help stabilize his heart, weeks of round-the-clock care and feedings from volunteers and veterinary staff at the Center, the eight-foot long cetacean regained his health and began to swim on his own. He was released with a satellite tag in Monterey Bay near a pod of dolphins, but quickly left them. According to signals from his tag, he favored a different pod near the Channel Islands.
Shamrock & Her Pup
This northern elephant seal, pictured here with her pup, was first admitted to The Marine Mammal Center on March 8, 2001, from Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg. She came to our hospital suffering from a mild skin disease and was weak. After some much needed care and rest, she was healthy enough to go back to the wild and was released on April 11, 2001, at Chimney Rock in Point Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco. Shamrock, like all of our patients, received a small orange identification tag which helped us spot her many times after she was released. Amazingly, in 2010 she was observed at Point Reyes with a pup of her own and looking healthy and strong!
Named for his regal demeanor, this California sea lion was the victim of an intentional act of human violence. Shot in the face and left for dead, he had at least 5 buckshot fragments in his head and damage to his mouth and jaw. Our veterinarians provided the critical care he needed to recover from his life-threatening injuries, but his devastating wounds left him blind. Once healthy, he was sent to the San Francisco Zoo where he acts as an educational ambassador, carrying the message to treat all creatures kindly. We hope that Silent Knight's story of why he came to the Center's care will highlight the occurence of these horrific crimes and ultimately inspire people like you to care more about these animals, and inspire greater stewardship of them and their ocean home.