Photos: ‘Sealing’ the Deal

(From left): World Animal News Head of Global Sponsorship Outreach Margot Ryan, WAN founder Katie Cleary and California Wildlife Center Marine Stranding Coordinator Jonsie Ross

The California Wildlife Center (CWC) said goodbye to the last elephant seal at its marine mammal rehabilitation facility on Thursday morning, July 14. The CWC nourished an underweight elephant seal pup and treated the multiple cuts on its head (possibly a shark attack). Weighing in at a low 97 pounds when rescued, it was released weighing 185 pounds, which exceeded the target weight of 150 pounds in a little less than two months.

There are a variety of reasons that marine mammals end up stranded on shore.

“The main reason is ‘failure to thrive,’ which basically means that once they were weaned, they were unable to find or catch enough food to sustain them,” CWC Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Manager Michael Remski said. “They also come in with a lesser degree of physical injuries, as was the case with this one.”

CWC staff and volunteers carefully carried the pup to a spot where it could be released without too much distraction from surfers and beachgoers. The wait time for the pup to enter the ocean depends on each animal. This pup left his cage, looked back at those who released him and then headed straight to the water.

World Animal News (WAN) founder Katie Cleary and WAN Head of Global Sponsorship Outreach Margot Ryan documented the release. 

“Watching and filming the elephant seal release was so heartwarming; it gives you hope in a world that is in peril. Being able to see the progress of the baby elephant seals from the time they’re rescued, to being rehabilitated and re-released by the California Wildlife Center and marine mammal expert Jonsie Reynolds Ross is a blessing that I hope everyone can experience in their lifetime.” 

Cleary said in an email to The Malibu Times. “Protecting these amazing marine mammals in the wild is most important. They deserve to be wild  and free — I always use my platform in entertainment to raise awareness for animal welfare issues.”

Marine mammals are rescued in Malibu all year, the slower season running from August through January, though the schedule changes year to year. During the slower months, the Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Facility is closed to prepare for the next season of strandings. All marine mammals being rescued at this time are transported directly to the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort McArthur in San Pedro, California.

“It’s great to see the last one heading back out to sea. We’ve done our jobs and saved quite a few lives. But the empty facility does not mean we’re finished. We don’t know what 2017 will bring, but if it’s anything like the past few years, we’d better start getting ready now.” Remski said.

If beachgoers see a stranded marine mammal, they are advised to contact California Wildlife Center and stay at least 50 feet away. Too much activity and movement will cause the animal distress; some may bite, especially when they are disoriented and sick.

Join California Wildlife Center on Sunday, Sept. 25 for their 18th annual celebration,“The Wild Brunch: Wild and Wonderful!”