British Columbia·Video

New lease on life for Vancouver Island sea lion

The animal — dubbed Campbell — was found emaciated and dehydrated on a beach near Campbell River, B.C., in October.

2017 marks busiest season in history for marine mammal rescue centre in Vancouver

Campbell, a California sea lion found near death on a Campbell River beach, awaits his release near Sooke. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

A California sea lion plunged into the ocean at a boat ramp near Sooke, B.C., on Friday, after a few barks and a quick look back over his shoulder at his rescuers.

The animal — dubbed Campbell — was found emaciated and dehydrated on a beach near Campbell River in October.

"We shouldn't normally be able to walk up and approach a healthy California sea lion," said Andrew Celmainis, a veterinary technician with the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

"We managed to coral him into a carrier."

Campbell was taken to the Vancouver Aquarium for two months of treatment for a fractured flipper and pneumonia in his lungs.

A California sea lion has been released back into the wild near Sooke, B.C., after receiving treatment for a fractured flipper. 0:39

When his recovery was complete, he was put back in a carrier, loaded onto a B.C. Ferry and driven to a boat launch in Sooke, near Victoria.

As soon as the carrier door opened, Campbell sauntered down to the water and swam away.

"We have been working around the clock for two months getting him better," said Lindsay Akhurst, the manager for the rescue centre.

"For him to seem so comfortable coming out and into the water and just take off and now we can't see him any more, it's just really great to see."

Rescues on the rise

2017 has been the busiest year the aquarium rescue centre has ever had, Akhurst said.

More than 200 marine creatures, including harbour seals, sea lions, fur seals and sea otters, were rehabilitated at the centre or treated in the field.

"Some people would suggest we just let nature take its course. We have seen cases, especially over the last year, with animals that it's not just nature. It's human caused," Akhurst said.

Although Campbell was rescued on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Akhurst says he was released in Sooke where he will have no trouble finding food and new sea lion friends.