by Lauren J. Mapp
A one-year-old, male sea lion pup was saved by SeaWorld San Diego‘s Rescue Team after being found at Swami’s Beach in Encinitas, California with his head trapped in a diver’s mask.
SeaWorld staff said the pup was malnourished and dehydrated because the mask had hindered his ability to eat. Pups of his age are usually between 55 and 65 pounds, but he only weighed 32 pounds when found.
The mask had been stuck on the sea lion for a few weeks by staff estimates. If he hadn’t been found, the pup would’ve died from either strangulation or starvation.
After cutting it off, the Rescue Team discovered the mask had left an infected wound on the sea lion’s neck. Rescuers brought him to SeaWorld’s Animal Health and Rescue Center to be treated by Todd Schmitt, a senior veterinarian.
“The park’s veterinarians and the animal care staff will continue to monitor the pup during his rehabilitation,” SeaWorld spokesman David Koontz said via email.
The pup was in good health otherwise. It will return to the ocean in a few months, once he has recuperated from his injury.
SeaWorld reports that almost 70 percent of rescued animals are returned to the wild after being cared for. Staff has rescued 481 animals this year alone, and 20,000 animals in San Diego over the past 55 years.