Day 4 6/29/13: Remembering the Victims: Becoming a Pinniped Pal

A former volunteer at the The Marine Mammal Center in San Pedro (not to be confused with the Marine Mammal Centers in Santa Barbara, Sausalito and Laguna Beach), wrote a brief and astonishing description of her time there. Apparently, a sea lion admitted to the facility was recovering from a severe shark bite.  Volunteers swaddled the animal in honey-soaked wraps to help his skin regenerate.

According to the MMC site, in addition to being chomped on by great whites, pinnipeds lose bite-sized circles of fish to the cookie-cutter shark (these little devils also bore holes in great whites). Marine mammals also suffer poisoning from toxic algae blooms, battle malnutrition, cancer and parasites. This past spring saw hundreds of emaciated sea lions stranded on Southern California beaches. Food shortages? Bacterial infections? Scientists still aren’t sure what caused orphaned pups to languish on the shore and wander into streets, parking lots and even hotel lobbies. Inundated with pinniped refugees, Marine Mammal Centers up and down the coast struggled to feed, treat and rehabilitate these creatures.

The utter strangeness of our relationship to animals never ceases to perplex and fascinate me. Today, I supported the rehabilitation and release programs of the San Pedro Marine Mammal Center by becoming a “Pinniped Pal.”

If I truly am a pinniped pal, it seems that I am a rather shallow, two-faced sort of friend.

In a year, I will travel to South Africa not only to dive with great whites, but to witness their phenomenal breaching behavior—those acrobatic leaps and surprise attacks that propel the sharks flipping and snapping into the air all in pursuit of the slippery, wily seal. But with equal enthusiasm and heart, I’m rooting for California’s seals and sea lions to detox from poisoned seas or recover from deadly shark-inflicted wounds, wrapped in the healing power of  honey.

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