SeaWorld Rescue returns 2 more seals to the wild – that’s 88 this year!

A pair of male fur seals rescued and nursed back to health by SeaWorld San Diego’s animal care team was returned to the ocean. Both animals were rescued in May emaciated, malnourished and dehydrated. The first of these mammals, a Guadalupe fur seal, was rescued off Imperial Beach weighing almost 15.5 pounds May 13, 2012. The other, a hybrid (mixed breed species), was rescued May 29 with a swollen rear flipper and weighing 16.5 pounds. SeaWorld veterinarians were able to treat the bulging flipper with antibiotics.

 

 

The estimated 1- and 2-year-old juveniles returned to the sea weighing 42 and 23 pounds respectively. SeaWorld animal care specialists and veterinarians treated the animals with hydration fluids and a nutrient-rich diet of capelin, sardines and herring. The seals are now healthy and able to forage for food on their own.

Research scientists from Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute outfitted each seal with a satellite transmitter. Scientists hope to track the animals’ movements at sea to learn more about where the species travels in the ocean along with perhaps why. The transmitters will likely dislodge from the fur seals when they molt in about two months. An adult male fur seal can grow to 6 feet and weigh up to 350 pounds, while females reach 4.5 feet and weigh up to 100 pounds.

 

ViaInside SeaWorld

 

“So far this year, SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program has saved 88 marine mammals.” – Eight Sea Lions Returned to the Wild

New area of marine biology – the whale fall – adventurous and full of new discoveries

A new and interesting area of scientific research is called a “whale fall”. This occurs when a whale dies and the massive body falls to the ocean floor. During the fall and for many months afterwards the whale becomes a haven for life.

This process, first observed in 1987, revealed 30 previously unknown species and has since become a popular research focus. Imagine an entire school bus gradually sinking and then resting on the ocean floor. Whole species thrive off of nutrient-rich area and some, including the newly discovered species, live solely on the school bus (whale carcass).

This burgeoning area of research recently received a lucky gift, actually several of them. The story starts on a San Diego beach:

The 67-foot fin whale was towed to Fiesta Island on Nov. 23 for scientific study. When the carcass landed on the water line, about two dozen researchers started carving it up for biological samples.

Scientists quickly determined that the whale had been killed by a ship because it had numerous fractured vertebrae and large areas of hemorrhage that indicated that it was alive when hit, according to a report put together by Kisfaludy and his partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, SeaWorld and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Then city officials, unsure what to do with this massive thing, “announced plans to haul the whale to a landfill,” and that’s when Virgin Oceanic got involved. They offered to tow it out to sea using their crew and 125-foot catamaran.

The organization, one of Richard Branson’s enterprises, promotes exploration of the seas. Its leaders wanted to see the carcass turned into an undersea laboratory.

For two nights, the whale was secured to a telephone pole by heavy rope and to an anchor in Mission Bay.

The day after the necropsy — Thanksgiving — Kisfaludy said he and Rouse “ran all over the county looking for steel that we could use.” They found 3,000 pounds of large shackles and 13 links of large ship chain that totaled about 1,000 pounds. They added that to 10,200 pounds of rusty steel mooring weights Kisfaludy secured from sources at Newport Harbor, where Virgin’s 125-foot catamaran docks.

via Whale almost didn’t sink with 14,000 pounds

 

The recreational catamaran then towed the whale 11 miles out to sea and released it. It sat there for a moment until it got crushed by a wave and then sank 800 meters to the ocean floor.

In the coming months Scripps researchers plan to visit the carcass using Remotely Operated Vehicles in search of new biological discoveries.

 

More:

Whale photos from San Diego Union-Tribune

Video of a whale fall, just landed and 18 months later