Gigantic Turtle Bone Fossil Now Complete

A gigantic ancient sea turtle fossil piece was found in New Jersey back in 2012. After doing a little research, it was discovered that the other half of that same bone was found over 100 years ago and was being housed at the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University. The puzzle was complete. Now they can say with a relative degree of certainty that the turtle the humerus came from was roughly about 10 feet long! Watch the video above to learn more.


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Hefty Sea Lions!

I know I’m a bit late with this, I had a very busy day yesterday between volunteering at The Marine Mammal Center all day and going to a concert last night. There are now over 100 animals at the center! It’s crazy! I missed last week because I had some family in town and then I go in yesterday to find the patient population has over doubled.

First thing when I arrived yesterday was to help stuff meds into fish being prepared for the patients. Then everyone would sign out a pen and go feed. I signed out a pen that seemed simple enough- a free feeding California sea lion. When I arrived at the enclosure, I was met by a humongous adult sea lion. Most patients are babies, but the occasional adult will become injured or ill and need our help. The 2kgs of fish in the bucket should have tipped me off that he’d be a big one. I tossed a fish over the fence into the pool and he flopped in, displacing tons of water over the edge. I think it goes without saying that I quickly went in, tossed the rest of his breakfast in, and darted out. I wouldn’t want a big hungry sea lion coming out of the pool at me while I’m holding his food. There are at least two other very large adults as well.

Later in the day, at the 2 o’clock feed, I selected an enclosure that I soon found out had an even larger sea lion. We was sleeping in the sun outside the pool when I brought his food. I tried making some noise to wake him up, and I through a couple of fish over into his pool. He just looked over at me and then laid his head back down. I wasn’t about to go in there by myself. I recruited another person to come help and he splashed him with a little water and through a couple more fish in and he finally went in the pool and gobbled them up, not without a loud barky growl first, though.

The elephant seals were adorable and kind of dumb as always. There are way more now. I was able to get one little tyke to start taking fish in the water; he had previously only been hand feeding on the pool deck. It’s crazy to see how some of them learn faster than others to eat fish in the pool and find them under water while others can’t even get the concept of swallowing down!

I tube fed and restrained a couple. That never get’s old! We also had some ellies to weigh. That is somewhat easier than weighing sea lions. Sea lions need to be put in a carrier on a cart to be taken to the scale. Ellies are so big and dopey that you just hoist them into a wheelbarrow and push them to the scale like it’s a big stroller. They aren’t agile enough to get out.

Can’t wait to see what next week brings! We’re only getting busier and busier. I love it!

Baby Gorilla and Mama Reunited

A baby gorilla, which was delivered by emergency C-section at the San Diego Zoo, was reunited with its mama yesterday after being treated in their veterinary hospital for pneumonia and other respiratory problems. Baby and mom, Imani, are doing well. In the video, we see Imani carrying and holding her baby and nursing the little one. So sweet!

Fourty-four Animals!

We are up to 44 animals topside now at The Marine Mammal Center. Today was a looooonngggg day. I learned to restrain elephant seals for tube feeding. That basically involves straddling them on your knees and holding their flippers against their body with your knees. It kind of looks like you’re trying to ride them. I also learned to do the tubing itself. Basically, once they have their mouth open, you get the tube in the opening to their esophagus. Then it slides in pretty easy, then you blow in the tube and listen for stomach sounds to make sure you are in and aren’t in the lungs or something. When you hear that, you are good to attach the syringe.

While tubing, one of the little ellies spit up, which happens sometime, so I ended up with elephant seal vomit all over me. Now I know why it’s a good to have our slickers. Definitely need to launder them.

To sum up today, there were a lot of tube feedings, we had to weigh some baby sea lions, we had to do fish school for some ellies, and we had to move around a couple to different pens. There are two sea lions at the center now that have leptospirosis so even though we are always careful, we have to be extra careful about not cross contaminating.

It was a long day but it was definitely fun and every time I go I learn something new and love it even more!

I won’t be going next week so there will be no Marine Mammal Center post for two weeks.

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‘Blackfish’ stirring up more trouble for Sea World

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Exciting news this past week! A bill has been introduced by Richard Bloom, the Assemblyman for California’s 50th district, and the chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation, that would ban the use of orcas for entertainment and stunt shows like those that draw in the crowds at SeaWorld, and allow them only to keep killer whales in captivity for research, rescue, and rehabilitation.

They would also no longer be permitted to breed their orcas. Tillikum, the orca who is the main focus of the documentary, ‘Blackfish’, has sired 21 calves. One might wonder why Sea World thought it was a good idea to breed the whale that has lead to three human deaths. I don’t want to go on a rant, but these are large intelligent animals and a small pool isn’t enough room for one whale, they thought it was a good idea to bring 21 more into a captive world?

This bill would apply to everyone, not just Sea World, although Sea World San Diego is currently the only place in California showing captive orcas. Anyway, eventually, they would be required to free their orcas into the wild or an open water sea pen where they can have more room to swim and socialize than in their tiny concrete pools.

I say this is good news and a step in the right direction for our large marine friends. If you haven’t seen ‘Blackfish’ yet, I highly recommend you do. It is available for instant streaming on Netflix and I’m sure you can watch it countless other places as well.

P.S. Despite what Sea World would tell you, dorsal fin collapse is NOT normal.

So many noisy elephant seals!

We are now up to around 27 animals this season at The Marine Mammal Center. There are several fur seals, several elephant seals, and more sea lions. The elephant seals are very vocal. They let you know they’re there. One has a big open wound near his lower back that looks like something took a big bite out of him. Some of the ellies are eating on their own and some are not.

In addition to cleaning out a bunch of pens, I helped make more elephant seal formula. Then I got to help with tube feeding one of the new little fur seals still at the main hospital building. I put the syringe of formula on the end of the tube another volunteer had placed down the esophagus and into the stomach and pushed the formula through. I also helped later in the day doing the same thing with two elephant seals. I will start doing this and eventually work my way up to restraining and placing the tube.

Thursday day crew is assigned two pens to deep clean each week and two pens to weigh. So we had to weigh four baby California sea lions. They were quite a handful but we managed to get them into a big carrier and onto the scale. I then helped deep clean their pen while we left them blocked off in the isle way.

Later, I fed a fur seal by myself. This just involved throwing some fish into her pool and stepping out of the pen. I then went into a sea lion pen with another volunteer to feed two sea lions. One ate but the other only tore up and spit out the fish so we ended up needing to tube feed him and the vet staff did a physical exam. I just mostly watched for that.

I learned how to do fish school today. We tied some fish to a string and waved it around in the elephant seals’ faces and in the water trying to entice them. They weren’t having it. We also tried holding it up to them without string so they could sniff it. It can some times take weeks to teach them that they are supposed to eat fish so in the mean time they are tube fed.

There was one larger fur seal would wouldn’t eat. They ended up bringing in a live fish for it and, what do you know, it ate it! After that, it ate the regular frozen fish everyone else gets. It just took the stimulation of chasing a wild fish to get it’s instincts and appetite going.

All-in-all it was a good day at the center. My longest yet. I was there until 3:15p. I know the days will get longer and longer as there are more and more animals. There was still another 4:00p feeding but I left to try and avoid some traffic. I live an hour away from the center, after all.

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Tube feeding an elephant seal (image found on TMMC website)
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Graphic Video: Rhino Victim of Poachers

When I saw this video, my heart broke. This poor rhino was spotted by tourists in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. He was stumbling across a road after poachers has taken his horn. Upon finally finding the rhino several days later, officials discovered a bullet lodged in the animals brain. They determined that it was necessary to put the rhino down and end his suffering. It’s so sad that things like this happen in a national park, despite efforts to curb poaching.