SAN DIEGO - Seven California sea lions and one Guadalupe fur seal were brought to SeaWorld San Diego for rehabilitation because the facility they were in has reached capacity, the park announced Tuesday.
They were transported Monday from the Marine Mammal Center at Fort McArthur in San Pedro, according to SeaWorld. Park officials said the number of sea lions beaching themselves this year is higher than normal.
In addition to the marine mammals from San Pedro, the park has rescued 57 California sea lions, two dolphins, two elephant seals and one harbor seal since the beginning of this year.
10News visited SeaWorld's rescue kennels, which are currently home to dozens of seal and sea lion pups who are suffering from malnutrition and dehydration. Some do not even have enough energy to get up and eat live fish in a pool.
The rescue team at SeaWorld had to do a lot of coaxing to get some of them into the water. Later, the team introduced 10News to pups that have been in their care for several weeks. They could not get into the water fast enough and climbed all over each other for fish.
"As they progress, they learn how to be more efficient eaters," said Jody Westberg, who is with SeaWorld's rescue division.
All of the pups were rescued after stranding themselves.
"In a normal year, we rescue about 150 California sea lions," said Westberg. "Since January 1, we rescued over 60."
SeaWorld said the fish the pups eat just are not where they know to find them. If there are fish around, they might be too big for the pups to eat. Although that is the biggest problem, some pups arrive at SeaWorld with injuries caused by humans. One pup was missing a ring of skin around its neck. A fishing net cut through the pup's skin.
"We were able to get to him and remove that net and now, our SeaWorld veterinarians are doing a laser treatment to help that wound help more quickly," said Westberg.
While each case is different, it takes about two months for rescued animals to be released into the wild. They have about a 70 percent chance of making it.
SeaWorld officials said they plan to take care of the marine mammals until they are ready to return to the wild. A harbor seal that had been handled by the park's animal care team was released Tuesday, according to SeaWorld.
SeaWorld said its rescue efforts cannot continue without concerned citizens who alert the rescue team to distressed animals. The rescue hotline is 1-800-541-SEAL. SeaWorld asks you not to approach animals in need since they could be frightened into the water before they can get help.