Monday, January 25, 2010

Entangled Pier 39 Sea Lion Rescued At Last!

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The entangled Pier 39 sea lion was rescued yesterday afternoon at Moss Landing after 20 failed rescue attempts in three weeks.

Host unlimited photos at for FREE!He is now recovering in the Marine Mammal Center headquarters at Sausalito, and sporting the new name of Abagnale, after the con artist in the Leonardo diCaprio movie 'Catch Me If You Can.'

Host unlimited photos at for FREE! His rescuers from the Marine Mammal Center, including two veterinarians, achieved a 'first' in their style of rescue: they shot sedatives into him to slow him down in order to net him. This has never been done before in a free-swimming marine mammal in the wild, say the center, because of risks that too much sedative could cause the animal to drown if he eludes rescue and swims off in the water again.

But Abagnale's condition was deteriorating - he was severely dehydrated and malnourished - and the team were getting desperate.

'We knew that all of our options were running out and that this animal was getting weaker and that he might not live much longer,' said Dr  Frances Gulland, Director of Veterinary Science at The Marine Mammal Center. 'We had to do something to save this animal, especially since he was entangled in marine debris in the first place as a result of human carelessness.'

Veterinarians Dr Nicola Pussini and Dr Bill Van Bonn went out in the team's Zodiac craft.

Host unlimited photos at for FREE!'With the boat’s motor off, drifting stealthily toward the sea lion, Dr. Pussini saw the opportunity, and with the first shot, delivered the dart into the animal,' said the center in their press release. The sea lion dived back into the water but then climbed out onto another dock, and Dr Pussini was able to shoot a second into him. The darts were filled with the anti-anxiety sedative, Midazolam.

Once netted, he was lifted into a large metal carrier and then transported via truck to the Center’s Sausalito hospital headquarters.

There, veterinarians anesthetized him and 'removed the monofilament that was deeply imbedded into his neck and mouth.' The sea lion is now on medication and veterinarians will continue to treat his injuries and run tests to see if he suffers from other medical complications.

The sea lion had been spotted on the evening of New Year's Day in Pier 39 with fishing line wrapped tightly around his neck and muzzle. Rescue attempts the following morning failed and volunteeers scoured the bay for him.

But he swam nearly 100 miles south to Moss Landing at Monterey and hauled out on the floating docks there, where the local unit of the marine center made other rescue attempts. Although they noted he was dehydrated and malnourished, in consultation with veterinarians and the National Marine Fisheries Service, they adopted a 'stand down' policy, due to him becoming distressed and concern that rescue attempts were causing the fishing line to tighten.

Host unlimited photos at for FREE!But by the end of yesterday, the team were celebrating.

'It’s a wonderful feeling of relief to be able to rescue this animal, said Sue Pemberton, leader of the Water Rescue Team unit. 'At the end of the day, no matter how difficult a rescue becomes, it is all worth it when we succeed,' she said.

About eight per cent of animals rescued by the center last year were entangled in marine debris.

pics courtesy of the Marine Mammal Center website
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