SeaWorld, lifeguards rescue ailing elephant seal

SAN DIEGO - The SeaWorld San Diego Rescue Team and San Diego lifeguards Thursday rescued a lethargic, malnourished and slightly dehydrated northern elephant seal that was beached at La Jolla Cove.

The 133-pound seal, which was slightly dehydrated, was taken to the park's new critical care center, where it was fed through a tube and rehydrated. Animal care staff expect the seal will be healthy enough to return to sea in six to eight weeks.

SeaWorld San Diego said it has taken in 185 sick, injured or stranded seals, sea lions, whales and dolphins so far this year. About 70 percent of the marine mammals cared for at the park are returned to the wild.

According to the Sausalito-based Marine Mammal Center, adult male northern elephant seals can grow to 13 feet long and weigh as much as 4,500 pounds. Pups weigh 75 pounds.

They range from Baja California to the Aleutian Islands, and are found on beaches of offshore islands during the breeding season. Otherwise, they are normally spotted well out to sea, according to the center.

Around 150,000 of the seals exist in the wild, a far cry from the 100 or so estimated to be living in 1910 when they were on the brink of extinction.

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