05/03/2013 01:41 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sea Lion Orphans Take Refuge At Six Flags


Vallejo is joining a large-scale effort to curb the effects of an unexplained series of mass sea lion strandings that has been hitting the California coast since January.

Last week, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom offered one of its pools and its marine mammal expertise to rehabilitate three young California female sea lion orphans deemed unfit to remain in the wild.

While park visitors are unlikely to garner a sneak peek at the juveniles, park Communications Manager Nancy Chan said, the move to offer refuge to injured and recovering animals is not unprecedented.

"We have the expertise, experience and space to provide treatment and care when situations like this arise. On our part, we want to help in any way we can," Chan said.

Toni Rael, senior marine mammal trainer for the park, said Discovery Kingdom would love to have the babies stay permanently, but acknowledged high competition for the animals.

Discovery Kingdom has nine permanent adult sea lions, ranging from about 200 pounds for the females and 300 to 400 for the males, Rael said.

"I'm used to dealing with the males," Rael said. "So (the new ones are) like pocket sea lions."

Rael said she will be trying to increase the yearlings' weight to a more normal 50 or 60 pounds, up from their average 30 pounds and increasing.

"We're trying to plump 'em up! We're feeding them as much food as they can possibly eat and getting good weight back on them," Rael said.

The three females-- two pups and a yearling -- were initially rescued by the National Marine Fisheries Service after each was found separately stranded on Ventura County roads in January, February and March.

Each were underweight, some dealing with lice and even one compound fin fracture, according to a report by the California Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

The three were among other sea lions found stranded as part of what National Marine Fisheries Service dubs an "Unusual Mortality Event" affecting young California sea lions generally born last summer. They went through a period of rehabilitation and then were re-released from boats off shore in the Channel Islands National Park.

Of the more than 1,000 stranded sea lions, a limited number have survived, officials said.

All three were found shortly -- ranging from four to 15 days -- back on the mainland, again suffering from weight loss and other problems. One of the females, the smallest, was recovered inside a parking garage that was under construction, "and walked into the kennel with only a little coaxing," according to her recovery report.

Contact staff writer Jessica A. York at (707) 553-6834 or Follow her on Twitter @JYVallejo. ___



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