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King Neptune


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 King Neptune: Latest Update


August 26, 2011

Yesterday morning, the Center conducted a series of tests to evaluate King Neptune’s gunshot wound and to assess his response to the antibiotics and treatments given to him since his arrival. During the course of exams, radiographs, follow up CBC and chemistry panels and an ultrasound, it was determined that King Neptune’s condition had significantly deteriorated. Unfortunately, the information gathered from a team of six veterinary science staff and several volunteers showed that the infection along the bullet track stemming from the gunshot wound had spread to the chest and a serious pneumonia was developing. Sadly, there were no signs of significant healing at the wound site.  In fact, more debris and dead tissue were recovered.  In addition, atrophy of the muscles along the spine was progressing rapidly.

Staff ultimately determined that major surgical debridement, chest tubes and a ventilator would not have a likelihood of correcting the existing complications from the gunshot. As a result, the Center humanely euthanized the animal last night. Although we know that King Neptune’s death was due to complications from the  gunshot wound, a necropsy will be conducted today to gather as much information as possible.

A decision to euthanize is never made without heavy deliberation. The core work of the Center is the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured marine mammals supported by state of the art animal care and research facilities. Release back to the wild is the ultimate goal for every patient.  The story of King Neptune is all the more tragic by the underlying cause of his death – a gunshot to a vulnerable animal from a human being. Perhaps his story can serve as a poignant reminder of the responsibility humans have to interact with all animals with the utmost care and respect.

King Neptune’s death is not in vain if his life helps to educate and underscore proper stewardship of the ocean and its inhabitants.

What can you do?

Sadly, a fair number of sea lions are rescued by the Center with signs of previous gunshot wounds that have since healed over.  In  2010, the Center admitted 9 patients with gunshot wounds - most recently a large male sea lion named Silent Knight who had been shot in the face and is now permanently blind. In 2009, the number of patients admitted with gunshot wounds was a staggering 19! It is illegal to harm or harass a marine mammal under the 1972 marine mammal protection act. Violators can be prosecuted and fines and even jail time imposed for convictions. 

If anyone living or visiting in the Monterey or Santa Cruz County areas has information about this particular case or other violent acts against marine mammals - please call the NOAA law enforcement:  (831) 647-2127

Other numbers you should know to report a marine mammal in distress including those that are victims of gunshots, entanglements or other injuries:

The Marine Mammal Center: (415) 289-SEAL (7325)

California Department of Fish and Game: 1-888-DFG-CALTIP (888) 334-2258

NOAA law enforcement hotline: 1-800-853-1964  


King Neptune's x-ray shows the bullet fragments (see circle above) lodged inside him near his spine.
© The Marine Mammal Center



August 23, 2011


King Neptune rests in his pool on August 23, 2011 at The Marine Mammal Center.
© Dina Warren - The Marine Mammal Center


King Neptune continues the healing process, as staff veterinarians closely monitor The Marine Mammal Center's latest gunshot victim. "Whenever we have a gunshot wound, aside from the obvious damage to the marine mammal, our immediate concern is infection," explains Dr. Bill Van Bonn, director of veterinary science. "As the bullet entered the dorsal thorax region, it shattered and broke into tiny pieces, narrowly missing the spinal cord. However, King Neptune is in much discomfort, and seems to gain some relief from light hydro-therapy on the wound site, in addition to the series of antibiotics to fight infection and pain killers to help make him more comfortable," adds Dr. Van Bonn.

Volunteers thaw out some squid to mix in with herring for King Neptune's meal.
© Dina Warren - The Marine Mammal Center


Later this week, the Center's veterinary team will be sedating King Neptune to further assess how well his gunshot wound is healing and responding to treatment. In fact, King Neptune appears to be an otherwise, healthy California sea lion. He does however, have to overcome some predictable feeding issues. As a wild, marine mammal, he is accustomed to finding, catching and eating live, fish. Although the Center uses freshly frozen whole herring that is later defrosted -- it is still unnatural to King Neptune to eat what is essentially, dead fish. To help him make this important transition, the Center's animal volunteer provided live fish, mixed in with some defrosted whole herring and squid, to King Neptune to encourage him to eat. "This morning, King Neptune did a good job of catching and eating all the live fish he was offered," explains Stacy Bezyack, an animal care volunteer. "He still isn't used to the defrosted fish and squid we usually provide our patients, so we still have to work and encourage him to accept our defrosted fresh-caught herring. He has to learn that it's Okay to eat these as well," adds Bezyack.


August 22, 2011


Veterinarians and volunteers continue to administer antibiotics and pain medication to King Neptune. While it was touch and go for the pinniped's survival over the weekend, it appears today that he is a little more "up" moving around in his pen and going into his pool. In the video above, shot by the Center, animal care volunteers try to entice King Neptune to eat a combination of herring and squid - normally, a sea lion's favorite food! Unfortunately, he was not interested, most likely as a result of how ill he must feel from his injury. Veterinarians have noticed that the swelling he had earlier from the infected wound has gone done and he is more agile. King Neptune is the fourth sea lion rescued by the Center this year as a result of a gunshot injury.


August 19, 2011

The Marine Mammal Center has rescued yet another sea lion suffering from a gunshot wound. The latest pinniped is an adult male named King Neptune. He was found on the Santa Cruz Wharf on August, 17 and was extremely lethargic and moderately underweight. He was immediately rescued and transported to the Center's hospital in Sausalito where, after x-rays, veterinarians learned that the wound on his back was a result of bullet fragments from a large caliber weapon, and that the wound is dangerously close to his spine. It's not known exactly when this animal was shot, but veterinarians estimated that the crime happened within a few days of the rescue.

King Neptune, an adult male California sea lion, begins recover at The Marine Mammal Center for a gunshot wound injury.
© The Marine Mammal Center


King Neptune is a big boy - weighing over 320 lb and is currently on antibiotics to clear up an infection around the wound, that if not resolved, could get into his bones causing further complications. Veterinarians are also administering pain killers as the area around that wound is very sensitive. He hasn't regained his appetite yet, but veterinarians feel cautiously optimistic that King Neptune will feel well enough to begin eating again soon. In May of this year, the Center rescued a young sea lion pup with a fatal gunshot wound. The pup didn't survive.

Help sea lion patients, like King Neptune, get a second chance at life back in the wild, by adopting a former patient! Your support helps us purchase food and medicine for our patients.





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