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A Global Outlook for Marine Mammals

The Marine Mammal Center hosted a reception last week for a delegation of visitors from Chile, along with representatives of the city of Sausalito, the Sausalito Chamber of Commerce, the Chile California Council, and the Chilean Consulate.

June 30, 2014

Dr. Shawn Johnson (center) talks to visitors from Chile about the work of The Marine Mammal Center.


Among the attendees was Mayor Ray Withy of Sausalito, Cheryl Popp, program chair of the Sausalito/Viña del Mar Sister City program, and a group of businesswomen from Viña del Mar, Chile. The purpose of the reception was to bring people together to discuss the creation of a Rehabilitation Center for Aquatic Animals in Chile.

The reception started off with a presentation by Dr. Mauricio Ulloa, International Veterinarian in Residence at The Marine Mammal Center. Dr. Ulloa is from Chile, where he is the Head of the Stranding and Conservation Unit for Protected Aquatic Species under the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Service, known in Spanish as the Servicio Nacional de Pesca y Acuicultura (Sernapesca). He has been at The Marine Mammal Center since April, as part of a program to provide marine mammal veterinarians across the globe an opportunity to gain experience in marine mammal medicine and rehabilitation. Dr. Ulloa’s trip is sponsored by the Center, and he has been selected from 20 applicants from over 15 countries. He will use the knowledge he acquires at the Center to train Sernapesca’s marine mammal veterinarians in rehabilitation, necropsy, and animal care.

Dr. Mauricio Ulloa (left) shows visitors from Chile around The Marine Mammal Center.

Dr. Ulloa has a dream of establishing a rescue hospital and rehabilitation center for marine mammals in Chile, with a mission similar to that of The Marine Mammal Center.

Sernapesca's Stranding and Conservation Unit, overseen by Dr. Ulloa, is responsible for the entire 3,998-mile coastline of Chile, a range that is six times the length of the rescue range covered by The Marine Mammal Center. In the year 2013 alone, there were nearly 400 stranding events that involved more than 500 animals along this stretch of coast.

Approximately half of these animals ended up dying before any type of medical or specialized care could be administered. The lack of appropriate rehabilitation facilities to respond to this growing phenomenon makes this problem worse, a situation Dr. Ulloa would like to address with his proposal.

The project would be a private venture, but could possibly get sponsorship and support from a number of relevant organizations, including the Chile California Council (CCC), the Sausalito Sister City Committee, and supporters of marine mammals in both Sausalito and Chile. The Marine Mammal Center is excited to provide the experience and technical support to help this project become a reality.

Plaza Viña del Mar, in the center of Sausalito.

The collaboration envisioned between the Center and a marine and aquatic animal rescue and care hospital in Chile is especially fitting, because the city where Dr. Ulloa would like to locate his facility is Viña del Mar, which is Sausalito’s sister city.

The sister city partnership has been an ongoing relationship since 1960, when the two mayors of that time, Howard Sievers of Sausalito and Gustavo Lorca of Viña del Mar, signed a cooperative agreement. According to the Sausalito/Viña del Mar Sister City Committee, the agreement is:

“intended to promote and facilitate people-to-people relationships between individuals in both cities and deeper understanding of the cultures, societies, histories and other circumstances of the two societies.”

Sausalito and Viña del Mar have put this partnership into practice in ways that make the citizens of both cities aware of each other through their daily lives. The central square in Sausalito, which used to be known as Depot Park (back when there was still a railroad in town), has been renamed Plaza Viña del Mar. A plaque placed there in 2010 recognizes the importance of this relationship:

“On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Sisterhood between the cities of Sausalito and Viña del Mar, proclaimed on March 5th, 1960, celebrated in the year of the Bicentennial of the Republic of Chile (1810 – 2010), the Consulate General of Chile in San Francisco presents this plaque to the friendly people of Sausalito.”

The Chilean city in turn, has a number of places that pay homage to Sausalito. The 18,000 seat Estadio Sausalito, is a stadium located near the Parque Sausalito, which plays host to the “Ruleteros,” a soccer team in the Chilean Premier division. The stadium overlooks the beautiful Laguna Sausalito, a placid lake in an idyllic park setting. Even the surrounding neighborhood is known as Sausalito.

Dr. Mauricio Ulloa in the Plaza Viña del Mar, in the center of Sausalito.

Similar to California, Chile has a rich diversity of marine mammals. South American sea lions (Otaria flavescens), South American fur seals (Arctocephalus australis), southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina), and leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) are a few of the pinniped species that can be found along the Chilean coast. There are also several cetacean species in Chilean waters, including southern right whales (Eubalaena australis), Chilean dolphins (Cephalorhynchus eutropia), and Burmeister’s porpoises (Phocoena spinipinnis). In addition to marine mammals, Dr. Ulloa envisions rescuing other marine species at the new center, such as Humboldt’s penguins (Spheniscus humboldti), Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus), and loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta).

Building a marine mammal rehabilitation facility in Chile would not be without its challenges. Raising the money, finding an appropriate space for the facility, and being the first to carry out this scale of undertaking in Chile would be just a few of the initial challenges. Just as The Marine Mammal Center started off with a few dedicated people working out of kiddie pools and rudimentary equipment, a new facility in Chile could be just the beginning of an improved future for the southern cousins of our pinniped patients. It could also be the beginning of a global partnership that recognizes that the health of our ocean is an issue that goes far beyond our national borders.



Find out more about What We Do at The Marine Mammal Center.

Read about Our Rescue Range.

Find out how you can: Take Action to help Marine Mammals!


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