Friday, July 31, 2009

The Rescued One

When we walked down to the beach Thursday, we found this sea lion at the base of the stairs. I called the local Marine Mammal Center to report this stranded animal, but a very sympathetic volunteer told me they were short-staffed (they are almost entirely volunteer supported) and that if the sea lion was not injured it could take 24 hours for a crew to respond. They are simply being overwhelmed this year with rescues. I told them I would check back on the animal in the morning to report to them if he was still alive. That's how I left it.
On Friday morning, with trepidation and heavy hearts, we walked down to the beach to see if our sea lion was still there. Why yes, yes he was; and he was still alive! But now there were two more stranded, as well. Fortunately, there were also two rescue volunteers already onsite, assessing the situation. Roger and I talked with them for a while; they were calling for two trucks to handle this rescue. One of the younger animals was definitely injured and would need to be taken in. The one we had seen the day before was still hanging in there, but was obviously in distress. The third one didn't look too bad and so probably wouldn't need rescuing. We felt very confident that things would be okay, and so left to come back home.

For some reason though, right after I got home, I thought I should just turn around and head back down to see if they might need some additional help. When I arrived, and it literally wasn't more than ten minutes later, the two smaller animals had already been driven back into the water by stupid, reckless, and thoughtless humans who had approached and scared them away. Grrrrr....
The older male that we had seen the day before was still there. He was lethargic, but still alert. We waited for the rescue truck to arrive. While we waited the sea lion changed positions several times. I can't tell you what a relief it was to see this animal move. Every movement was a confirmation that its heart was still beating. Each slow rise of its chest meant life. That he had survived this long was already a surprise, so now we were focused on getting it some much-needed help.
Help arrived, and the rescue was absolutely flawless. One of the volunteers took a very large net on a very long handle, and threw it over the sea lion's head. Then, the six other volunteers that had arrived surrounded it with wooden boards, which encouraged it to move forward into the net. The net is then turned so that the opening faces the carrier. Voila! The sea lion is taken away. The number of sea lions needing rescue this year has just surpassed the all-time high of 1129 in the 1989 El Nino year. Thursday came in it at 1130, and still counting. This one might be 1131, I have no way of knowing. But the rescuers told us that we could follow its progress on their website. They were going to call him RoRo, for Roger and Robin. We were deeply honored by their suggestion.
Rock on, RoRo.

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