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Tulie & Her Sea Lion Pup Pals

Tulie, Butter Ball, Latke, Village, & Jonde are all California sea lion pups. All were found separated from their moms and are far too young to fend for themselves.

December 24, 2013

Jonde is a recent arrival at the Center, with a heartwarming story that is in keeping with the holiday time of year. This young sea lion pup was found on Santa Claus Beach near Carpinteria, emaciated and malnourished, with her mother nowhere in sight. She weighed just 29 pounds when she was admitted to the Center's hospital, which means she is probably not yet prepared to fend for herself in the wild. Now with the care of staff and volunteers at the Center, she has a second chance to have a healthy life in her ocean home.

Jonde has a healthy appetite for fish, a good sign she will be able to return to her ocean home.
© The Marine Mammal Center

December 21, 2013

Sea lion pups Butter Ball and Tulie were released near Santa Cruz Island on December 20, 2013. After treatment for malnutrition and maternal separation, it is gratifying to see these pups go home for the Holidays! Thanks to our friends at Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute(CIMWI) for the boat ride and help with the release! Watch a video of Butter Ball and Tulie jumping back into the big blue!

December 17, 2013

The young sea lions currently under the care of The Marine Mammal Center are doing well at the Center, eating a lot of fish and gradually getting big enough to be released back to the ocean. One of the last tests to prepare them for release is to see how well they go after live fish. As you can see in this video, they both devour the fish with a graceful style as they swim around their pool. Watch the video and see how your support is helping these growing sea lion pups!

December 3, 2013

Tulie has been joined by a few more sea lion pups who have been rescued in the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo areas. Butter Ball, Latke, and Village are all very young sea lions that were found separated from their mothers and suffering from malnutrition.

The three new arrivals bring with them some holiday cheer to the Center. Butter Ball and Latke were rescued just a couple of days before Thanksgiving and were given names that celebrate the convergence of the secular and sacred holidays - Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah.

Butter Ball was rescued in Santa Barbara County, suffering from maternal separation and malnutrition.


For us humans, the holiday season makes us think about our families, especially if we are away from home. Sea lions this young should still be with their mom, so surviving in their ocean home can be very difficult. It may take a few weeks for them to grow and gain enough weight to allow them compete and find food on their own, but with special care at our hospital, we are optimistic that these sea lion pups can be returned to wild.

We already have some good news to report for Village, a young female sea lion pup who was rescued on a beach in San Luis Obispo County. She gets to go home for the holidays! She will be released back to her ocean home on December 5.

Whether or not our other sea lion pups make it home in time for the holidays, with your help they will have the best chance for a second  future! Join our Home for the Holidays challenge and help take care of Tulie, Butter Ball and Latke!

November 25, 2013

Baby Tulie is just one of nearly 500 animals we've rescued in 2013. Tulie was found alone on a beach earlier in November - at just 5 or 6 months old and with no mom in sight, we knew she needed help.

Tulie, a very young sea lion, is a current patient at the Center.
© The Marine Mammal Center


Back at our hospital we gave Tulie an admit exam - she weighed just 24 pounds! For the first few days after her rescue, Tulie was often seen suckling her hind flipper. Perhaps it was her way of letting us know she wanted to be with her mom, because at this age, that's where she should be! There is always a risk of imprinting with young sea lions, but we take every precaution to avoid it. The good news is that Tulie has shown remarkable progress for such a young sea lion! She started eating fish on her own after just a few days at the Center, which is a great sign! Needless to say this young sea lion has captured our hearts and we are really hopeful that she will make it Home for the Holidays.

Donate to help Tulie! Your gift will help us feed and care for Tulie until she is big and strong enough to go back to the wild!

One of the biggest challenges when rescuing extremely young sea lions is that they easily become habituated to human beings. Like many different kinds of animals, sea lion pups experience a biological phenomenon known as "imprinting." This takes place early in an animal’s life, a critical time when attachments are formed and the survival instinct compels the animal to identify with a protective caretaker. In the wild, this would usually be the mother, but a young sea lion will substitute a human for this role.

When treating sea lions at the Center, we strive to minimize imprinting and keep the animals wild. This will ensure that they will eventually be able to return to the ocean, which is the aim of our treatment and rehabilitation.

Our animal care volunteers take a number of steps to avoid imprinting or at least keep it to a level that does not significantly alter the animal's behavior:

  • Talking directly to the animal is never done.
  • Talking among volunteers while in the animal pens is avoided, although sometimes it is necessary to communicate important information. In this case, voices are kept at a low volume.
  • Hands are hidden behind boards as much as possible.
  • Animals are herded into the pool for feeding to simulate their natural feeding environment as much as possible.
  • Fish are not used to lure the animal.

These practices serve to put a certain distance between sea lions and humans. Sea lions are very intelligent animals, however, and are not easily fooled. They know when humans enter their pens that fish will likely appear shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, these small steps minimize imprinting and can serve to protect the wildness of our sea lion patients.

We are excited by Tulie's progress because she is free feeding - which means that she is eating whole fish on her own without intervention. The addition of a new young penmate called Village, is helping to keep both animals active, competitive and wild.





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