Sabtu, 14 November 2020

Sea lions with rock-packed bellies helped by PMMC thanks to local partners - OCRegister

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The instant Chompers caught a whiff of sea air, she leaped from her kennel on the beach, slid down a berm, raced through the surf, and in minutes was deep in the ocean.

That was on Nov. 6, five months after the 2-year-old was rescued from a Newport Beach buoy where she was found, a fishing line and hook embedded deep into her neck.

But the journey to her release wasn’t easy. It took collaboration between the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach and the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. It also set PMMC up – thanks to a $6,000 grant awarded by Laguna Beach city officials – to immediately help other struggling sea lions.

  • Julius, a sea lion pup, born this year was found at the mouth of the Santa Ana River jetty in September. He was horribly underweight and dehydrated. PMMC staff determined that the young sea lion’s stomach was loaded down with rocks. (Photo courtesy of PMMC)

  • Chompers, a yearling sea lion, was found in Newport Bay in July with a neck entanglement. With help from the Aquarium of the Pacific, PPMMC staff removed two dozen rocks from her stomach. (Photo courtesy of PMMC)

  • Chompers, a yearling sea lion was found in Newport Bay with a neck entanglement. But there was more. PMMC staff found that she had 24 rocks in her stomach. (Photo courtesy of PMMC)

  • Chompers, a yearling sea lion, was found in Newport Bay in July with a neck entanglement. With help from the Aquarium of the Pacific, PPMMC staff removed two dozen rocks from her stomach. Sh is shown here in her release in November. (Photo courtesy of PMMC)

  • Rocks found in the stomach of a young California sea lion pup. Julius is recovering at PMMC after endoscopic procedures helped remove 33 rocks. (Photo courtesy of PMMC)

The marine mammal center has been part of the city’s DNA since 1971, when it was founded as Friends of the Sea Lion, by a lifeguard, a high school science teacher and a veterinarian. It is responsible for rescuing and rehabilitating marine mammals along 53 miles of Orange County coastline.

Plans to expand the center were approved by the Laguna Beach City Council in 2018 and feature a shared-use building that will benefit PMMC, the Police Department and its animal shelter.

When Chompers arrived at PMMC on July 10, Dr. Alissa Deming, the center’s veterinarian, discovered that her neck’s deep wound was infected. Still, the sea lion had a good body condition and her demeanor was “sassy and bright.” She was given antibiotics and her wound was cleaned and treated.

But Chompers didn’t want to eat. Deming did more diagnostics.

“The second you snapped the X-ray, you could see her stomach was full of rocks,” Deming said. “We didn’t have lots of options and hoped she would vomit them up on her own.”

Sometimes male sea lions are known to eat rocks to keep their bellies full during mating season, so they’re not distracted by hunger.

With Chompers, Deming believes the severe neck injury made it painful and difficult for her to hunt and catch fish. Likely, she ate rocks to stave off hunger pains.

Unlike domestic pets that can be given medicine to induce vomiting, that’s not an option for sea lions. Invasive abdominal surgery also wouldn’t work because sea lions move around by dragging their stomachs. A wound there might not heal.

Deming contacted Dr. Lance Adams and Dr. Brittany Stevens, two veterinarians at the Aquarium of the Pacific, who arrived at PMMC with an endoscope. Twelve large rocks were removed from Chomper’s stomach under anesthesia. Still, a dozen more remained.

Over the next week, caretakers found rocks wrapped up in her blankets. By the end of the week, she had thrown up all 12 rocks. On Aug. 3, Chomper finally ate her first fish on her own.

“We all screamed when she did that,” said Krysta Higuchi, the center’s spokesperson.

Over the next months, Chompers gained more than 45 pounds and was ready for her return to the ocean.

While Chompers was the first sea lion to be found with a belly full of rocks, Julius – the center’s earliest rescue of new sea lion pups born this year – had a more dire problem.

Found in mid-September, the months-old pup was emaciated. The PMMC folks immediately went to work trying to strengthen him with fluids and tube-feeding.

When he choked up a rock on the second day of treatment, the staff knew what to do and they now had the tool they needed. They had just purchased their own refurbished endoscope using the city’s grant.

The refurbished tool, previously used on humans, was a deal. New units cost between $20,000 and $40,000.

X-rays showed the pup’s stomach was packed with rocks.

“Pups eat rocks out of desperation,” Deming said. “We thought Chompers had a lot of rocks; Julius was completely full. His j-shaped stomach was packed. Fish wouldn’t have fit in there.”

With the center’s new endoscope, Deming went to work. While putting sea lions under anesthesia is always risky, Deming was able to reduce the amount of time he was sedated. Over a series of days, she removed 33 rocks.

While Julius’ condition is still guarded because of his extreme weight loss, Deming said his prognosis is promising.

“The only reason we can manage him is that we can keep going back,” Deming said.

PMMC’s new endoscope will also be useful in helping with other animals in the future, especially those that have fish hooks and lines entangled in their stomachs, mouth and esophagus.

“These two sea lions are alive because of the Long Beach aquarium and the city of Laguna Beach,” Deming said.

The Link Lonk


November 14, 2020 at 10:46PM
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Sea lions with rock-packed bellies helped by PMMC thanks to local partners - OCRegister

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