Thanks to caring people like you, we were able to rescue more than 850 marine mammals in 2019. Now it’s time to recognize some of the most memorable patient stories.
Thank you for giving our marine mammal patients a second chance at life—none of this would be possible without your support!
Voting for Patient of the Year for 2019 is now closed.
Here's how you voted:
Bluegrass, California Sea Lion
‘Ākulikuli, Hawaiian Monk Seal
Aquapup, Pacific Harbor Seal
Weasley, Northern Elephant Seal
Inky, Norther Fur Seal
Annette, Guadalupe Fur Seal
Want to show your favorite patients even more love? Each one of our Patient of the Year nominees is available as a digitally downloadable Adopt-a-Seal®! Your symbolic adoption comes with an adoption certificate featuring the patient’s photo and story, and you'll feel great knowing that your purchase supports the life-saving care of future patients.
Choose your favorite!
|Bluegrass – California Sea Lion
Rescued: October 4, 2019
Released: November 21, 2019
Diagnosis: Gunshot wound, domoic acid intoxication, malnutrition
California sea lion Bluegrass was spotted at PIER 39 with a severe wound to his face from a gunshot. He underwent intensive surgery and was left with only one eye. But our veterinary experts know that sea lions are able to survive in the wild with just one eye as their other senses, like smell and hearing, are able to help compensate. Gunshot victims like Bluegrass serve as a stark reminder of the continued need for protections, such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act, for this sentinel species. After weeks of rehabilitative care, Bluegrass’ wound healed fully from the injury, and he was released back to the wild with a second chance.
|Weasley – Northern elephant seal
Rescued: May 11, 2019
Released: July 24, 2019
Northern elephant seal pups are usually born with black coats of fur, so our team was quite intrigued when a pup arrived sporting a unique reddish coat! He was named Weasley, after the famous fictional wizarding family of similar coloring. He was admitted severely malnourished and well under birth weight. Thanks to our animal care team’s magical efforts, he learned how to eat whole fish on his own and compete with other animals while more than doubling his admit weight. Weasley’s mysterious hue could have been a sun-bleached black coat, though our experts weren’t able to find a definitive reason. He eventually molted his reddish coat and was released back into his ocean home with the skill set needed to survive in the wild with his fellow silvery seals.
|Inky – Northern fur seal
Rescued: September 7, 2019
Released: October 23, 2019
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, domoic acid intoxication
Northern fur seal Inky was rescued weak and starving — although you might not have suspected it since he was admitted at over 215 pounds! Inky is the largest northern fur seal ever admitted to the Center, but still weighed about half of what he should have as an adult male. Inky was suffering from the effects of domoic acid, a potentially deadly neurotoxin. We were able to help flush the toxin from Inky’s system by giving him fluids and fish free of domoic acid. After being granted a clean bill of health, he was released back to his ocean home with a second chance.
|Aquapup – Pacific harbor seal
Rescued: February 22, 2019
Released: May 1, 2019
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, maternal separation
Concerned beachgoers called our 24-hour hotline after spotting a small fluffy figure alone on the beach. Thanks to these everyday heroes, harbor seal Aquapup was brought into our care after being separated from his mother too soon. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the concerned beachgoers and our animal care team, as well as support from people like you, Aquapup graduated from fish milkshakes to fish school, where he learned to eat whole fish on his own. He was released with the skills he would need to survive in the wild and a second chance at life.
|Annette – Guadalupe fur seal
Rescued: January 27, 2019
Released: May 1, 2019
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, trauma
Guadalupe fur seal Annette got his name because he was found with a net around his head. During his initial exam, our veterinarians noted that Annette was severely underweight. The entanglement likely left him unable to swim well enough to catch food, and he was weak and fatigued. After being disentangled and receiving over a month of care, Annette was ready to return to his ocean home. He was released with a satellite tag, and our researchers tracked him over 300 miles from where he was released. By studying his movements in the wild, our scientists can learn more about this threatened species and how to protect them.
|‘Ākulikuli – Hawaiian monk seal
Rescued: September 14, 2018
Released: June 1, 2019
Diagnosis: Maternal separation, malnutrition
When Hawaiian monk seal pup ‘Ākulikuli was rescued, he had recently weaned from his mother, but was not getting the nutrition he needed and was severely underweight. Hawaiian monk seals are an endangered species, with only about 1,400 left in the wild, so he was brought to Ke Kai Ola, our Hawaiian monk seal hospital on the island of Hawai‘i, for rehabilitative care. ‘Ākulikuli was tube-fed a nutritious formula at first and soon transitioned to eating whole fish on his own. Human contact was minimal, and specialized enrichment activities encouraged him to develop natural behaviors and skills to ensure he’d have the best chance of survival out in the wild. After months of care, ‘Ākulikuli was released back to his ocean home with a second chance at life.
Can’t find your favorite patient of 2019? Share your nomination on The Marine Mammal Center's Facebook page!
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