Beachgoers use social media to save starving sea lion pups
This year more sea lion pups than usual won't live to adulthood, because they are starving on Calif. beaches
.<a href="https://twitter.com/SeaWorld">@SeaWorld</a> rescued this little sea lion chillin' in a beach chair at Silver Strand State Beach yesterday <a href="http://t.co/wuXVejkMjh">pic.twitter.com/wuXVejkMjh</a>—@sabrinawolman
Rescue centres are struggling to keep up with hundreds of sick and starving sea lion pups washing up along the California coast. More than 1,100 pups have been rescued since January from beaches, but also from inside public restrooms, behind buildings and along railroad tracks.
And calls for help keep coming. Beachgoers are reaching out to rescuers such as Sea World and the Pacific Marine Mammal Center by phone and social media in attempts to save sick sea lions. Often, the animals are too weak to move.
<a href="https://twitter.com/1marinemammal">@1marinemammal</a> at dume beach there is a sea lion pup not looking so good separated from its mom. Who do we contact? <a href="http://t.co/VAQPc5oQJi">pic.twitter.com/VAQPc5oQJi</a>—@jujuchop
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It's not unusual to have some sea lions wash up each spring as the pups leave their mothers, but so far, the number of stranded babies is five times greater than in 2013, the worst season in recent memory.
.<a href="https://twitter.com/CAWildlife">@CAWildlife</a> Stranded sea lion pup looking ill at Pt Dume beach tower #3, 6:45pm 3/8. <a href="https://twitter.com/CityMalibu">@CityMalibu</a> <a href="http://t.co/OEkWtW75Ze">pic.twitter.com/OEkWtW75Ze</a>—@susanbellfilm
"These animals are coming in really desperate. They're at the end of life. They're in a crisis ... and not all animals are going to make it," said Keith A. Matassa, executive director at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, which is currently rehabilitating 115 sea lion pups.
These sea lions need rescuing, not just a meal.
The situation is so bad that Sea World suspended its sea lion show to focus on rescue efforts. The theme park has treated 400 pups — more than twice the number it would care for in a typical year — and constructed two temporary pools to house them.
El Nino the suspected culprit
Scientists aren't sure what's causing the crisis, but suspect that warmer waters from this winter's mild El Nino weather pattern are impacting the sea lion birthing grounds along the Channel Islands off the Southern California coast.
A sick sea lion in Laguna Beach. Breaks my heart �� rescue personnel on their way to pick him up. <a href="http://t.co/VhAROn9fuY">pic.twitter.com/VhAROn9fuY</a>—@VeeNavid
The warm water is likely pushing prime sea lion foods — market squid, sardines and anchovies — further north, forcing the mothers to abandon their pups for up to eight days at a time in search of sustenance.
Each incoming pup has its temperature taken and is weighed, measured and given a blood sugar test before the team decides if they can save it.
Those that make the cut are tube-fed a gruel of pureed herring, Pedialyte, vitamins and milk three or four times a day after starting out with a simple broth of hydrating fluids and dextrose.
Those that graduate to whole fish are playfully called "feeders" and those that can once more compete for fish tossed into a pool are called "fighters."
The goal is to get the pups strong enough to swim free again — but the volunteers who nurse them back to health may never know if they make it in the wild.
Sick sea lion pup at Limantour Beach Pt Reyes National Seashore. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/marinemammalcarecenter?src=hash">#marinemammalcarecenter</a> monitoring <a href="http://t.co/zt8KVuq4SX">pic.twitter.com/zt8KVuq4SX</a>—@TerryMcSweeney
With files from The Associated Press