I was so sad to hear about the Plains All American Pipeline oil spill this occurred this past Tuesday off the coast of Santa Barbara County in California. The spill ended up being five times worse than they originally thought. While clean up efforts continue, the long term effects on the marine life and environment are yet to be seen. We are still seeing effects on the marine life from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill that took place in the Gulf back in 2010.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has this to say:
“California’s coastline is one of the state’s most precious natural treasures. This oil spill has scarred the scenic Santa Barbara coast, natural habitats and wildlife. My office is working closely with our state and federal partners on an investigation of this conduct to ensure we hold responsible parties accountable.”
This spill hits a little closer to home for me. I live in northern California, and I volunteer with marine mammals like the California sea lions and elephant seals being effected by this spill. In addition, fish, birds, and other wildlife are being affected by this spill. Apparently, it is the only major pipeline in the area without an automatic shut off valve because of the previous owner somehow talking his way around the requirements back in the ’80s. That is unacceptable. As of today, they still hadn’t found the segment of pipeline with the leak.
In an MSNBC article, it is reported that:
“The oil transportation company has been fined at least 10 times for oil spill violations in four other states between 2004 and 2007, according to reports. The Houston-based company has been deemed the “worst violators” by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration.”
This company needs a kick in the butt. They should be shut down. That many violations and failure to have an automatic shut off valve?! It makes me sick just thinking about it. We can only hope that this was a lesson to them, and that they will be held fully responsible.
Well, I have finally been able to take the basic meds and advanced meds courses at The Marine Mammal Center meaning I am not able to do injections and subcutaneous fluids. I took the advanced meds class on Tuesday night so Thursday was my first day poking butts. I didn’t do any subQ fluids, I just helped with intramuscular injections, most of which were phenobarbital for the patients with seizures. It is definitely more nerve-wracking that doing IM injections on dogs and cats at work. The animals are larger, moving more, and have a pool to escape into. I’m certain I will get used to it and better at it with time, I just need practice. I’m just glad the rest of my crew is being patient with me.
Other than that it was a pretty normal day at the center. More and more animals being released each week. I think we should be getting some baby sea lions soon as this is now the time of year when they are being born. The days are definitely leaving us with more free time for now though. I like to keep busy but at the same time, this is giving us more opportunity to do fish school with the ellies that need it and more opportunity to do things at a leisurely pace. I took a couple of pictures of one of our sea lion patients this past week. It was so funny, he was trying to climb up the wall and look into the next pen. I don’t know if he had a friend over their, if he was just bored because his 2 pen mates were sleeping, or if he was just curious. Either way, it was funny to watch. You’ll notice that you can see his ribs, waist, and shoulder blades in the picture. He is malnourished and that is one of the reasons he is being treated here. We need to get him fat and healthy and back into the ocean. You should not be able to see any bone structure on one of these guys.
Well, the boyfriend came down with a nasty virus so unfortunately, there was no hike this weekend. It was even my birthday weekend! But he is feeling somewhat better so hopefully next Sunday we can do another Sunday Funday hike.
I feel like haven’t written much about The Marine Mammal Center lately. That’s because things have somewhat slowed down. It is nice to have time to sit down and take a coffee and lunch break for a change. The ellies are slowly but surely learning to eat and compete with each other and each week more are released. Soon we will hit a peak again but this time with California sea lions. Each year, most baby sea lion pups are born in June, and since we have just entered june, it is only a matter of time before they take over. That isn’t to say that we haven’t had plenty of sea lions already, but we soon shall have plenty more.
This past Thursday, BBC had a camera crew at the center filming a documentary. Myself and two others from my crew were “volunteered” by our crew-mates to wear microphones and be filmed working with the elephant seals. Specifically, they wanted us wearing the microphones to catch some of the vocalizations of the ellies while we did fish school, which involves tying a string around the tail of a fish and dragging it around the water in the hopes that it will trigger predatory instincts in the pups. One of the others with me wore a GoPro camera on her chest to catch the volunteers perspective during fish school and hand feeding. Then, they used a pole with a GoPro on it to get the ellie’s perspective during fish school and hand feeding. They also took some other video clip angles while we were feeding a pen, including some underwater shots. I think it goes without saying that the pups were very interested in the camera and kept trying to bite at it! They’re so curious, I love it. I don’t know when that will air but I will post it or link to it as soon as it does. That way you all can get a glimpse at some of what we do there!
In the mean time, here is a picture of one of the elephant seal pups being curious as always!
One of the curious elephant seal pups I volunteer with!
Unfortunately, fishing equipment like gill nets are often left adrift at sea and our sea dwelling friends many times find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thank goodness this diver and his friends came across this whale before it was too late. I love stories like this!
The past couple of weeks have been very busy and fun at The Marine Mammal Center. The Thursday before last was very hot, in the upper 80’s to lower 90’s so working out in the hot sun all day was very hot and exhausting. This Thursday we got a nice break from that and it was a little chillier, but unfortunately it was also drizzly. That’s okay though, the day went pretty smoothly. Especially if you consider the fact that we were missing several of our veteran crew members.
This week, I finally was able to restrain and tube feed sea lion pups. Until this point, I had only been doing elephant seals. They are slower and less agile than sea lions so they are the better place to start learning. The sea lions I restrained and tubed were pretty down, energy wise, so they were good to start learning on. I think I’m getting the hang of that.
Unfortunately, one sea lion and one elephant seal this week were declining in health. Both crashed on Thursday and were seizing. The vet staff tried their best but ultimately had to make the difficult decision to euthanize them and end their suffering. Whenever a patient dies or is euthanized, a blood sample is taken to aid in research. I was able to learn to draw a blood sample from the sea lion. While the circumstances were sad, this was the first time I had done anything like that on one of the pinniped patients and I am grateful to the vet staff for letting me practice and learn.
In a few weeks, I will be taking the basic meds class so that I can start pulling meds for the patients, and hopefully soon after that I can take the advanced meds course so I can give injections and subQ (subcutaneous or under the skin) fluids.
Some of the elephant seal patients at feeding time on Thursday!
We were now at almost 200 animals at The Marine Mammal Center this year. Those are record numbers! We haven’t had this many animals at the center at one time in something like 40 years. There is an algal bloom in Monterey Bay that supposedly is contributing to the problem in addition to other conditions. The NBC Bay Area News was there on Thursday while I was volunteering filming a story about it. Here is a link to the story along with some video footage of some of my crew-mates and some of our cute little patients.
If you’re interested in donating to help us feed so many hungry mouths, check out TMMC donation page.
Holy. Crap. Over 170 animals at the center now. We tube fed more elephant seals than I can remember today. This post covers this week and last week. Sorry I didn’t post last week. I had a full 12 hour day with no lunch last week and didn’t get home until late. This week was only an 11.5 hour day and I did get lunch.
This week is also apparently Volunteer Appreciation Week so they had ice cream sundays for us. I think we all deserve it. We are definitely in the peak of busy season. Every day we get more and more animals. Sure, we also have releases often, but more are coming in than going out. It’s always nice feeding then pens with free-feeders. Takes no time at all. The challenge comes when you have ones that aren’t supposed to be fed (aka “NPOs”) and you need to figure out if they’re are just NPO because of an exam or because of a surgery. If it’s a surgery, then you have to go through separating that one so the others can eat. It can be tough when dealing with feisty sea lions.
Last week, I was bitten on the leg by an ellie. Didn’t break skin. But definitely left a bit of a bruise. You get outnumbered when you’re in a pen trying to keep them away from a tube feeder but they’re coming from all directions. In zombie movies, I always wonder why people can’t just outrun the zombies. They’re slow and move so awkwardly. When you’re surrounded by hungry ellies flopping across the pen floor towards you honking and barking, you understand.
I get to the center at 7am. There are a few long time volunteers that get there at 3am! THREE! Can you believe that?! And then they stay until 6:30pm or 7:00pm like the rest of us. I live an hour and 15 minutes from the center. There’s no way I could get there that early.
Anyway, I’ll try to post again next week. ‘Til then!