Over 18,000 animals rescued and treated since 1975…
Over 30,000 adults and children educated each year…
Over 1,100 volunteers from Medocino County in Northern California to San Luis Obispo County on the Central Coast…
Why do the animal rescue professionals and volunteers work so hard in the research and rehabilitation of the animals that come into the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California?
For these moments of glory: The opportunity to return sea lions, seals and other marine wildlife to their natural habitats knowing that they have the strength and skills to stay alive and thrive.
Up until the mid point of our morning with the Marine Mammal Center, I thought after the tour and time with our volunteer, we’d travel a couple of hours north to the Point Reyes National Seashore. While in Point Reyes, we would visit an elephant seal rookery. Seeing the rookery and the area around Chimney Rock would give us an idea of the typical or ideal habitat for the marine mammals that we’d spent the day learning about.
Travel experiences, no matter how small, excite me, especially when nature is involved. The opportunity reminded me of when my husband Slaed and I paid a visit to the elephant seals at San Simeon on the central California coast after exploring Hearst Castle. Coincidentally, I was also pregnant (with our first son, Bergen) during that visit! I couldn’t wait to see these creatures again.
However, the folks at the Marine Mammal Center (TMMC) had a different plan than what we were originally being told. Yes, we’d visit the rookery, but there was more to this mini road trip. Before we could get a look at the elephant seals, we had more important business to attend to: A Sea Lion Release!
Apostrophe, Row, and Fritters were ready. Each of these sea lions were rescued during the month of August (separately) because they were found malnourished and severely underweight. In addition to nutrition problems, Row had a fish hook caught on his flipper, and fritters was suffering from heart murmurs.
As much as the volunteers and staff enjoy these animals, the goal of the center is for the rescues to spend as little time at the facility as possible. They want the marine animals to recuperate from any injuries, maintain appropriate weight, and be able to aggressively feed and fish independently. The average stay for the animals (mostly elephant seals, harbor seals and sea lions) at TMMC is 6 weeks.
When we arrived at Chimney Rock, the release location along Point Reyes, we also learned that we would not merely be standing-by and observing the celebration. The organizers at TMMC tasked each of us (about 15 bloggers from around the country) with a specific job. The sea lions were housed in kennels in the back of a large pick-up truck, and a different “blogger team” helped with each step of the process including:
- Untying the ropes that secured the kennels to the back of the truck (my job)
- Lowering the kennels (with animals inside) down to the beach
- Opening the doors to the kennels to release each sea lion
- Manning a backboard to guide the sea lions into the water (if necessary)
Words really can’t describe the feeling that came over me as I watched the sea lions easily and seamlessly make their way back into the ocean. Magic comes to mind, as well as pride. Pride for the animals because, after many weeks of intense recuperating, rehabilitating, and relearning their life skills, they had made it.
At the same time, a feeling of admiration and awe was also there as I looked on at the dedicated volunteers and TMMC staff members. Releases don’t happen everyday, but the hard work of making these moments occur does.
Interested in learning more? Read about the specifics of The Marine Mammal Center in my first overview post, then catch a glimpse of more of the volunteer action in my second post highlighting my experience with an education volunteer. You can also search #dawndayinthewildlife and find out more from my fellow blogging ambassadors for Dawn.
Disclosure: A very special thank you to the folks at Dawn for making this experience possible and for sponsoring my travel and lodging in the San Francisco Bay area. As always all opinions and ideas expressed are my own.
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