More than meets the eye
Did you know about the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue facility? There's much more to the Aquarium than the exhibits in Stanley Park that you see as a visitor. The Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre (VAMMRC) is a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals, in East Vancouver. Each year, the VAMMRC team rescues, rehabilitates & releases nearly 150 animals. While most of the patients are harbour seal pups, the veterinary team has also provided medical treatment to elephant seals, sea otters, sea lions, whales, & porpoises, many of whom were successfully released back into the wild.
Last weekend, the VAMMRC welcomed its first rescued harbour seal pups of 2013. Red Square, as the Rescue Centre team has named him, is one of the first pups to arrive at the Rescue Centre, described by staff as “feisty.”
A resident of Finnerty Cove (near Victoria) spotted the newly-born seal on a private beach. After observing that he was without his mother for over 24 hours, she called the Rescue Centre & reported that the small animal was squirming around on the beach. She'd even seen the poor thing suckling on a log. After Rescue Centre staff gave her specific instructions on how to retrieve & handle the seal pup, Red Square was flown to Vancouver thanks to Harbour Air/WestCoast Air, where he was greeted by the Rescue Centre team.
“Although he arrived underweight and malnourished, he was a fighter and very vocal, which are positive signs,” explains Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the VAMMRC. “Provided we can stabilize him, the plan will be to provide him with the nourishment he needs to gain strength and weight, teach him how to forage and, hopefully, return him to his natural habitat in the next few months.”
Rescue Centre staff determined that Red Square was most likely prematurely born due to the soft white fur, called lanugo, that still covered his body. The young pup is currently being hand-fed a nutrient-rich formula five times a day & closely monitored by the veterinary team.
Each year, the Rescue Centre takes suggestions for a naming theme that is adopted for the summer season to guide the names of each rescued seal. This season, seal pups will be named after celestial bodies, which was suggested by the Rescue Centre’s supporters.
What can you do?
If you see a stranded marine mammal, do not approach it and keep pets away. Please call the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604.258.SEAL (7325) for immediate assistance.
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