Disney Nature: Monkey Kingdom

We recently saw Disney Nature’s newest documentary titled Monkey Kingdom, and it was pretty good. What I loved about this film that was different than previous Disney Nature pics was that they showed the interaction between the monkeys and their human neighbors. As humans develop more and more into previously wild areas, there will inevitably be some overlap. You get to see the difference in how they live between their wild home, and the one in the big city. Their sleeping habits are affected, their diets, and even their social structure. Narrated by Tina Fey, it had the typical style of other Disney Nature documentaries where the subjects are named, and the events take place from a particular animal’s perspective, in this case, an adult female monkey low in the social order. It follows the amazing journey of these monkeys from their home territory, to the big city, and back, and the female monkeys journey from the bottom to the top of the social hierarchy. I recommend this movie to both adults and children looking to learn more about nature and get a good story at the same time.

Santa Barbara Oil Spill

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.

Huddart Park (2.8 miles loop): Crystal Springs Trail> Chaparral Trail> Richards Rd Trail> Bay Tree Trail

Spent my Sunday morning doing this lovely hike! It only took just over an hour to complete the 2.83 mile loop at Huddart County Park (part of the San Mateo County Park system). The trail is predominantly wooded and pretty level. There are a few uphill/downhill sections but none too long or too steep. While there were other people on the trail, it wasn’t as crowded as some other hikes I’ve been on. Parking is pretty easy right by the trailhead. There is a $6 fee to enter the park at the gate. Unfortunately, no dogs allowed.

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Another Day at TMMC: Poking Butts

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.

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No hike, but some elephant seal fun!

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!

One of the curious elephant seal pups I volunteer with!

Snorkeler Saves Humpback From Netting

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!

New Experiences at TMMC

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! Copyright NaturallyHillary.wordpress.com

Some of the elephant seal patients at feeding time on Thursday!
Copyright NaturallyHillary.wordpress.com