Be Kind to Your Fine Flippered Friends

17 Sep

This month has been crazy so I’m going to be blogging through a time warp. Brace yourself for the flashback:


This past summer when I started living in Golden Gate, I was quickly introduced to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. The Marine Mammal Center does, well, a lot of things for ocean mammals including research and education. However, the heart of the organization is their rescue and rehabilitation program for seals and sea lions. When I was offered an opportunity to work there as a volunteer I was reluctant at first. I finally decided that it was a good opportunity to learn, gain new skills and it might look good on a resume.

Just kidding. They had me at “You can work with seals and sea lions.” All that other stuff was a bonus. I offered them my soul on the spot. They responded with “Umm….how about your Monday nights instead?”

I was intimidated at first. I have never had to care for an animal more complicated than goldfish, and I demonstrated a remarkable talent for accidentally killing them. Not to mention the animals I was working with were injured or sick and extremely fragile. Much to my surprise, they quickly showed me how to use a board and clean pools. Then they assigned me to a pen occupied by two young elephant seals.


I immediately began to contemplate kidnapping one and bringing it home to live in my bathtub.

I learned so much during the short time I volunteered there. I learned how to tell the difference between a sea lion and a seal. (Sea lions have ear flaps and walk around on their front flippers; seals have no ear flaps and flop around like chubby mobile sausages.) I saw first-hand an animal poisoned by Domoic Acid. I was amazed by how intelligent the sea lions were and how quickly they were able to figure out what we were up to. I was shocked by how many animals were injured directly by human impacts: entanglements with fishing gear, ingestion of plastic trash, collisions with propellers, and there were even animals injured by gunshot wounds. Above all, I was impressed by the number of volunteers that care for them.


I know that some of the animals I worked with didn’t make it. It was sad to see a blank space on the board and know it had been occupied by an animal that wasn’t doing well. But even months later the thing that still makes me teary-eyed are the releases:

Totally worth it.


P.S. Inspired? Donate here.


One Response to “Be Kind to Your Fine Flippered Friends”

  1. The Sea Lion Psychiatrist September 21, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Sea Lions….are….AWESOME

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