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Surgery Saved this Sea Lion's Life!

Shortly after his surgery, Tui is back in his pen and ready to dive into the pool!
© Dina Warren - The Marine Mammal Center

This little male juvenile California sea lion nicknamed "Tui" recently received life-saving surgery that helped him go back to the ocean! Volunteers from the Center rescued him on October 12, 2011, from a secluded cove along Carmel's famed 17-Mile Drive, just south of Bird Rock.

Emaciated and lethargic, Tui was so sick that he was allowing people and dogs to get near him and was too weak to retreat back into the sea. 

Rescuers from the Center's Monterey Bay Operations transported Tui to the main hospital headquarters in Sausalito. Tui's admit exam revealed leptospirosis as the probable cause for his weakened condition, and at barely 70 pounds and only 4-1/2 feet long, little Tui was in bad shape.

Veterinarians removed dead tissue and two bones from Tui's back flipper that were infected as a result of leptospirosis.
© Dina Warren - The Marine Mammal Center


Tui's working diagnosis was no surprise to veterinary staff and rescue volunteers, given the many leptospirosis patients admitted to the Center that year. However, Tui's emaciated body condition, depressed behavior, dry nose, and lack of vocalization were also compounded by a serious problem to his left, rear flipper - digit necrosis!

"It is not uncommon for presumed leptospirosis patients to suffer from digit necrosis," explained Dr. Bill Van Bonn, The Marine Mammal Center's Director of Veterinary Science. "Leptospirosis compromises function in the sea lion's kidneys and liver, and in some cases, it can also compromise blood circulation to other parts of the marine mammal's body or extremities, such as the flippers. This can cause the tissue to die, which in itself can lead to more complications for the patient," said Dr. Van Bonn.

After medical treatment at The Marine Mammal Center, a healthy Tui makes his way down Rodeo Beach and to the ocean.
© The Marine Mammal Center


Tui's treatment plan included several antibiotics and a crucial surgical procedure to remove the dead tissue from his flipper. In fact, Tui lost the last two bones of the first two digits of the flipper, but thankfully the rest of his flipper was healthy enough to be left intact. After a long but successful treatment and rehabilitation, Tui was released at Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands on November 23, 2011.

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