Thanks to caring people like you, we rescued a record-breaking 1,800+ animals in 2015—the most ever in our 40-year history. Now it’s time to recognize some of the patient stories that left a lasting impression during this unforgettable year.
And the winner of the 2015 favorite Patient of the Year is... Pearl the Hawaiian Monk Seal!
Here's the breakdown of how the votes went:
Pearl, Hawaiian Monk Seal
Tolay, Northern Elephant Seal
Ernesto, Pacific Harbor Seal
Percevero, California Sea Lion
Zachary, Northern Fur Seal
Leo, Steller Sea Lion
Silkster, Guadalupe Fur Seal
Thanks to all who participated in this year's voting!
You can help us choose our Patient of the Year for 2015 from this list of seven of our memorable animals. Cast your vote by midnight on Tuesday, January 26 to be included in the final decision. We’ll announce your favorite patient in our first e-newsletter in February. (Sign up now to join our email list!)
Thanks for giving our marine mammal patients a second chance at life—we couldn’t do it without your support!
Voting is now closed
Rescued: April 30, 2015
Released: September 11, 2015
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, maternal separation, bone infection
Harbor seal pup Ernesto was found alone on a public beach with a noticeably swollen right front flipper. Once admitted to our hospital, X-rays revealed that he was suffering from a serious bone infection that would require a partial amputation. During a multi-hour surgery, the infected bone fragments were removed from Ernesto’s flipper, and following his post-op recovery, he was able to swim on his own and compete for fish. After more than four months in our care, Ernesto was released back to the wild with two fully functioning front flippers and a second chance at life.
Admitted: November 13, 2014
Released: April 17, 2015
Diagnosis: Maternal separation
Rescued on a beach in Washington state, Steller sea lion pup Leo traveled by Coast Guard aircraft to The Marine Mammal Center for long-term rehabilitation in 2014. Although he already weighed about 100 pounds, Leo was only five months old at the time and much too young to survive without his mother. During his five-month stay at our hospital, Leo grew to more than 250 pounds—more than double the size of his California sea lion pen-mates. But once he was old enough to survive on his own, Leo returned to Washington state where he was released with a satellite tracking device that allowed scientists to collect data on his behavior in the wild.
Rescued: May 28, 2015
Released: September 23, 2015
Diagnosis: Pearl was rescued in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where fewer than one in five Hawaiian monk seals survive their first year due to threats like entanglement in ocean trash, changes in the food chain and predation. At first, she struggled to compete with her male pen-mate Hermes, but once our animal care experts began separating the two pups for feedings, Pearl was able to get the fish she needed to grow strong enough for release back into the wild. After four months of care at Ke Kai Ola, she was returned to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands where she can help rebuild this critically endangered population.
Rescued: February 11, 2015
Released: March 30, 2015
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, bad location
This tiny sea lion pup owes his life to the National Park Ranger who spotted him trying to cross a lane of traffic in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. After helping transport the wayward pup to The Marine Mammal Center, the ranger named him “Percevero,” meaning “to persevere” in Latin, which seemed quite apt for a pup so determined to survive. Like many of the California sea lion pups we rescued in 2015, Percevero was sick and starving when he arrived at our hospital. But after six weeks of care, he had doubled in size and was released back to the wild along with six other healthy sea lion pups.
Rescued: April 1, 2015
Released: June 5, 2015
Furry pup Silkster was one of more than 30 Guadalupe fur seals we rescued in 2015—six times our record yearly rate. Though Silkster was about 10 months old when he was rescued in early April, he weighed little more than the typical birth weight for this species. But after two months of care—and plenty of fish—Silkster was strong enough to return to the ocean. He was released at Point Reyes National Seashore wearing a satellite tag that has provided researchers with valuable data about this threatened species.
Stranded: December 28, 2015
Relocated: December 29, 2015
Diagnosis: Bad location
Although she was never an official patient at our hospital, this persistent 900-pound pregnant elephant seal left a lasting impression on our rescuers after making multiple attempts to cross a highway in Sonoma County. Named “Tolay” after the creek where she was found, people around the globe rooted for Tolay's safe return to her ocean home after her story gained drew international media attention. Once Tolay was sedated, it took 12 people to lift her into a rescue truck for transport to a safer location. Within a few days of arriving at the Point Reyes National Seashore elephant seal rookery, Tolay gave birth to her pup.
Rescued: October 10, 2015
Released: December 14, 2015
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, maternal separation, anemia
Zachary was the first of more than 100 northern fur seals rescued in 2015 when she was found alone on beach near Santa Cruz. Although Zachary was skinny and starving, she growled as our rescue experts approached, giving the team hope that she’d be strong enough to survive. She transitioned quickly from tube feedings of “fish smoothies” to whole fish and soon doubled in weight. After two months of care at our hospital, Zachary was released back to the wild at a private beach north of San Francisco.
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