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Hawaiian monk seal Ahonui
News Update

Choose Your Favorite Marine Mammal Patient of 2022

January 23, 2023

Thanks to caring people like you, more than 575 marine mammals were rescued in 2022. Now it’s time to recognize some of the most memorable patient stories.

You can help choose our Patient of the Year for 2022 from this list of eight animals that left a lasting impression. Cast your vote by Tuesday, January 31 to be part of the final decision. We’ll announce our 2022 Patient of the Year in our February e-newsletter. Sign up for email to get the results delivered straight to your inbox!

Vote for your favorite!

Adopt Your Favorite!

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 a certificate featuring the patient’s photo and story, and proceeds support life-saving care for the next sick or injured animal.

Thank you for giving our marine mammal patients a second chance at life -- none of this would be possible without you!

Mayhem - California Sea Lion

Rescued: July 13, 2022
Released: September 1, 2022
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, Leptospirosis, Sarcocystis

California sea lion Mayhem was spotted not looking like a healthy sea lion should. When a concerned beachgoer called our 24-hour rescue hotline to report a weak and exhausted animal, our specially trained response team leapt into action. At our hospital, Mayhem underwent a thorough admit exam where our experts discovered how very sick this sea lion was. Not only was he malnourished, but he was also suffering from a dangerous bacterial infection called leptospirosis and a parasite called Sarcocystis that can make it difficult for an animal to eat or breathe. Mayhem’s diagnosis could have easily led to an untimely death if left untreated. Fortunately, he was put on a personalized treatment plan that included antibiotics, fluids and other supportive care to help him recover. Weeks later at his release, Mayhem didn’t waste a second as he dashed through the sand back to his ocean home.

California sea lion Mayhem

Shrub - Northern Elephant Seal

Rescued: September 17, 2022
Released: December 1, 2022
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, Ocular abnormality, Otostrongyliasis

Northern elephant seal pup Shrub was found on a beach malnourished and suffering from a dangerous parasite. She clearly wasn’t getting enough to eat out in the wild, and likely would have faced a tragic fate without help. Luckily, Shrub was rescued and brought to our hospital where she received the medical care she desperately needed to heal. As Shrub began to eat her nutritious fish meals, she slowly put on a healthy amount of weight and regained her strength. Part of Shrub’s rehabilitation also involved engaging in specialized enrichment activities to develop natural behaviors and critical survival skills. Enrichment items like imitation kelp and balls with fish hidden inside encouraged problem-solving and exploration of her environment. After months of care, Shrub was ready for life in the wild where she could venture into the open ocean and dive to amazing depths foraging for food.

northern elephant seal Shrub with enrichment items including fake kelp and a red buoy

Reina - Northern Fur Seal

Rescued: September 22, 2022
Released: October 28, 2022
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, Cardiac murmur, Domoic acid toxicosis

When northern fur seal Reina was found stranded on the beach, it was clear that something was very wrong. You see, these animals spend almost all of their time in the open ocean, only coming ashore to breed or if they are sick. Reina was rescued and transported to our hospital, where our animal care experts could see that she was starving and suffering from the effects of domoic acid, a potentially deadly neurotoxin. This toxin can also affect humans who eat contaminated shellfish, though marine mammals are often the first to be impacted. Luckily for Reina, she received life-saving care before any significant damage was done. Our veterinarians were able to flush the toxin from her system by giving her fluids and fish free of domoic acid. After about a month of care, Reina was granted a clean bill of health and returned to her ocean home.  

northern fur seal Reina

Sionna - Pacific Harbor Seal

Rescued: April 26, 2022
Released: July 13, 2022
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, maternal separation, ocular abnormality, trauma, unknown, cardiac murmur

Harbor seal pup Sionna was found starving on the beach with little energy to go on. What’s even more heartbreaking was that her mother was nowhere in sight. Without her mother to provide her with nourishing milk and teach her critical life skills, Sionna likely wouldn’t have survived without help. This orphaned pup was rescued and brought to our hospital for a second chance. Our animal care experts provided Sionna with specialized care, like antibiotics to boost her fragile newborn immune system and a nutritious milk formula to help her grow strong. And soon enough, she was learning to catch and eat whole fish on her own! After receiving a clean bill of health and showing our experts that she had the skills to thrive in the wild, Sionna was released back to her ocean home.

Pacific harbor seal Sionna

Fluffy - Guadalupe Fur Seal

Rescued: April 27, 2022
Released: August 5, 2022
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, trauma, human interaction

Guadalupe fur seal Fluffy was found in a scary situation: a fishing net was wrapped tightly around his neck. Guadalupe fur seals have one of the highest rates of entanglement in ocean trash among our patients, and experts are concerned that these life-threatening entrapments are harming this threatened species’ chance at recovering. Fortunately, Fluffy was freed from his entanglement and brought to our hospital for critical care. Not only had the fishing net caused painful wounds, but it had also made it difficult for Fluffy to swim properly, so he wasn’t able to catch enough food. But at our hospital, Fluffy was put on a special treatment plan that included plenty of medicine and nutritious fish. After more than three months of care, this once skinny and injured pup transformed into a healthy seal that was released with a second chance at life in the wild.

Guadalupe fur seal Fluffy

Ahonui – Hawaiian Monk Seal

Rescued: May 24, 2022
Released: August 15, 2022
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, maternal separation, abscess

When Hawaiian monk seal pup Ahonui was rescued, she had recently weaned from her mother, but was not getting the nutrition she needed and was severely underweight. Hawaiian monk seals are one of the most endangered animals in the world, so each individual seal is essential to save this species from extinction. Thankfully, Ahonui was rescued and transported to Ke Kai Ola, our Hawaiian monk seal hospital on Hawai‘i Island, for rehabilitative care. At first, this skinny seal was gently tube-fed a nutritious formula to help her stabilize and get vital nutrients, but it wasn’t long before she was eating fish on her own. She soon began to steadily gain weight and playfully interact with other Hawaiian monk seals in our care. After Ahonui regained her strength, she was released back to the wild in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with a second chance at life.

Hawaiian monk seal Ahonui

Paddlewan - Southern Sea Otter

Rescued: March 21, 2022
Released: June 1, 2022
Diagnosis: Malnutrition, Sarcocystis

Southern sea otter Paddlewan was spotted in the ocean looking weak, exhausted and much too skinny. Wave after wave, his tiny body was tossed around by the surf. After he was rescued and brought to our hospital, our experts noticed that Paddlewan was trembling and struggling to feed himself. This sea otter was suffering from Sarcocystis, a deadly parasite that can cause severe muscle weakness and make it difficult for an animal to eat or breathe. Thankfully, he received life-saving food, medicine and other supportive care in the nick of time. After more than two months of treatment, Paddlewan had regained his strength and feisty attitude typical of southern sea otters. He underwent a final release exam and was fitted with a special tracking tag, so our experts could continue to monitor his progress in the wild and better protect this threatened species.

southern sea otter Paddlewan

Ersa - Steller Sea Lion

Rescued: June 25, 2021
Released: April 21, 2022
Diagnosis: Maternal separation, Omphalitis

Steller sea lion Ersa was found alone on a beach when she was just 1 month old. Steller sea lion pups usually rely on their mothers for 10 to 12 months as they nurse and learn critical life skills, so it was clear that this orphaned pup needed help. Steller sea lions are a very social species, so Ersa also needed to learn how to interact with other marine mammals. At our hospital, she had lots of companions, including another Steller sea lion and California sea lions. Ersa received more than nine months of care while she grew strong and mastered survival skills, such as how to socialize with other animals and catch fish on her own. Before Ersa was released, she was fitted with a small temporary satellite tag, so our scientists could track her and better understand how our long-term care helps Steller sea lions thrive in the wild.

Steller sea lion Ersa

Patient images © The Marine Mammal Center / NOAA permit #18786 / USFWS permit MA101713-1

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