Thursday, July 30, 2009
One of the wonderful benefits of aquariums and zoos is that they allow some rescued wildlife a second chance at life. I at one time spent over a decade rescuing and rehabilitating wild marine mammals, so I know first hand that without these institutions many critters might have a disability or personality traits that would keep them from making it in the wild.
An example of an animal that found a great life despite being deemed unable to survive in the wild is Miller our oldest sea lion at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Miller was born in the wild in 1980 but became an orphan before he had learned the skills to survive in the ocean. Found starving on a San Diego beach he was rescued and treated by a marine mammal rehabilitation facility. Deemed a non-candidate for release he was adopted into the company of humans as a performing sea lion. After his show business career ended, Miller eventually found his way to the Aquarium of the Pacific, where, with the help of our husbandry and veterinary staff, he’s enjoyed the good life in semi-retirement for the past 11 years.
Last Saturday Miller celebrated his 29th birthday with an ice cake from the Saturday crew with 29 capelins sticking up out of the top like candles. At 29 years old, he’s older than a lot of the staff caring for him and is one of the oldest male sea lions in the country. Sea lions live about 15-17 years in the wild and from 20-30 years under the care of humans (probably a bit less for males). Volunteer marine mammal trainer Linda planned Miller’s celebration, making not only the birthday ice cake but also little ice cupcakes with a single capelin sticking up for Miller’s pinniped exhibit mates. Linda’s known Miller longer than anyone else at the Aquarium as she was once one of Miller’s co-stars during his performing years at an Orange County amusement park before he came to Long Beach. I still run into people that remember Miller from his show business days in Buena Park. He had quite a charismatic personality back then.
Of course there are a lot of people that also know him as the animal that they’ve met up-close and personal and shaken flippers with during an Aquarium of the Pacific sea lion encounter. His charisma charms folks even today. Miller is the grand old man of the exhibit.
Happy Birthday Big Guy!
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