Since the start of 2015, nearly 2,000 sea lion pups have washed up — starving and alone — on California’s beaches, and researchers aren’t sure why. It’s normal for some pups to become beached after leaving their mothers in the spring, but this year’s numbers are alarming.
Luckily, dedicated volunteers are working hard to save these stranded pups. See a joyous release video below, and read on to find out how you can help!
Why is this happening?
Researchers are speculating that California sea lion mothers are having difficulty finding food, likely because ocean waters are warmer and northern winds are weaker than usual. That warmth is pushing sea lion prey further and deeper into the ocean and forcing mothers to spend more time hunting than they normally would.
As a result, pups are left alone and hungry, eventually becoming desperate enough to set out on their own before they’re physically ready. The ones that can’t fend for themselves wind up on the beach, helpless and starving.
What will happen to the pups?
Rescue organizations are working hard to nurse the stranded pups back to health — via tube feeding if necessary — so they can be returned to the wild. Most pups are severely malnourished and dehydrated, and will require months of intensive care before they can safely be released.
Lavender, Winnie, Davy and Orlando, four pups rescued by the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, were some of the lucky ones. See their joyous release:
Sadly, many pups are beyond saving by the time they are reported to authorities, too malnourished and exhausted to recover. Even more tragically, due to lack of resources, some have had to be euthanized. According to a story from NPR, pups must be able to eat and fish on their own before they can be released, and many rescued pups haven’t even been weaned. Because of the influx, rescue facilities are forced to make space by euthanizing pups that have a small chance of recovery.
How can you help?
Those who live in California can support rescue efforts by volunteering at rescue centers. Most facilities are running at or beyond capacity and are in dire need of extra hands. But no matter where you live, you can make a big impact by supporting rescue efforts with a donation!
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