Sea lions rescued by SeaWorld returned to ocean
Last Updated: 67 days ago
SAN DIEGO - Two rescued sea lions were released back into the ocean Wednesday afternoon, and SeaWorld's rescue crew seemed thrilled to see them go as it marked the final days of a mysterious epidemic that struck the coast of Southern California.
The two sea lions -- one male, one female -- leaped over each other to get a salty taste of home sweet home. They're two of the final five sea lions rescued to make the return trip.
The boy did not waste any time taking off, but the girl turned to face the crew and decided to stick around the crew she had come to know.
SeaWorld Rescue Team Member Kortney Sanders said it might have been because the female had packed on 32 pounds and was not in need of food right away.
The female sea lion was spotted at Torrey Pines State Beach in August. Sanders said her ribs were visible, and she had a hurt shoulder and a collapsed lung when she was rescued. The male was found in September.
SeaWorld's team released the pair at Border Field State Park, which is right by the U.S.-Mexico border, because it is a straight shot to a lot of foot at the Coronado Islands.
"Now, they don't need us and they're ready to go," Sanders said.
They were two of about 400 sea lions SeaWorld rescued this year. That is more than three times the number last year, and team members say it was overwhelming at times.
"It was amazing the strength that we all gathered from each other in order to give it to these animals that were succumbing to the elements," Sanders said.
The pups were born last summer, and their mothers started weaning them in January -- right when pups started popping up all over.
In March, 10News captured a sea lion catching rays with other guests at a La Jolla hotel. The next month, a pup hopped in a man's car and curled up. Another hobbled right into the Chamber of Commerce office in Imperial Beach.
"They were coming in emaciated, half their body weights," Sanders added.
Rescue workers believe the sea lions were searching for food. What happened to their food source remains a mystery. Tracking devices may give answers to what's going on underwater.
"It's always very difficult to see so many animals come in that are in desperate need of your help," Sanders said. "When you get to see them return back to wild, it makes everything so worth it."
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