Friday, October 12, 2007
I’m pleased to report that we have another new addition to our pinniped family at the Aquarium! Odin, a rescued two-year-old male California sea lion, joined current residents Miller, Parker, Shelby, Ellie, and newcomer Troy this past Thursday in the Seal and Sea Lion Habitat.
Odin had been found stranded on Zuma Beach in Malibu, lethargic and underweight. He was brought to the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur, where he made his recovery, though it was determined that he was almost completely blind in both eyes. Though healthy, his eye problems prevented him from being released back to the ocean because he would be unable to successfully hunt for food. Therefore, it was time to find this homeless sea lion a permanent place to live! The Aquarium volunteered and was selected, and Odin arrived in June. He’s been living behind-the-scenes during his standard quarantine period, and now he’s all clear to interact with our other animals and has successfully learned basic behaviors with his trainers. What a trooper! He’s doing just fine, and seems to have formed a close friendship with Parker, our five-year-old male California sea lion. The two are frequently spotted together in the exhibit, and Parker seems to be even leading Odin around and showing him the ropes like any good big (sea lion) brother would!
California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) can frequently be spotted right here off our coasts. They are very social animals, so they can be seen in large groups on docks, beaches, buoys, and various other haul-out sites. Sometimes you can actually hear them before you can see them, as they are famous for their noisy barking! As you can imagine, sea lions love their fish, and they eat a lot of it. They can be dark to light brown in color, and males can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and reach seven feet in length. Females are a bit smaller, weighing a little over 200 pounds and reaching six feet in length. Unlike seals, sea lions are very agile on land and have tiny external ear flaps. Males develop a bump on their heads at around five years of age, called a sagittal crest, which actually gets lighter with age. Male sea lions go gray, too!
Why do sea lions strand? Sea lions strand for a variety of reasons, both natural and man-made. They are able to get many different illnesses, such as cancers, bacterial/viral infections, and respiratory problems. They strand at times due to natural injuries, such as escaping from the jaws of a great white shark or suffering a broken bone from a conflict with another animal. There are also man-made causes, such as fishing line, fishhooks, nets, and plastics.
So what should you do if you encounter a seal or sea lion? Stay away! Observe the animal from a distance, looking for visible signs of injury, alertness, or whether or not it appears malnourished. Are its eyes wet and/or tearing? That’s a good sign! If you think the animal is in distress (and not just sunning itself) call your local animal control agency and report the location and condition of the animal. Leave the rest to the pros, both for your safety, and for the safety of the animal!
That’s about it for now! I encourage everyone to come on out and see Odin living it up in his new home. Isn’t it nice when a rescue story has a happy ending?
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