In February of 2020 a harbor seal pup was found stranded near Abalone Point in Laguna Beach, California. The malnourished pup still had her umbilical cord attached and was clearly born prematurely, as she had white-blonde fur that is typically shed in utero. Rescuers with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) waited with the pup on the cold, rocky beach, but her mother never returned. So, they wrapped the seal up in a blanket, named her Sidney, and brought her back to PMMC to heal.
Sidney received around-the-clock care and required frequent feedings and medical attention. Typically, the goal for these rescued marine mammals is rehabilitation and, eventually, release. Although Sidney is completely healthy now, she has never developed the skills necessary to survive in the wild, likely due to her premature birth. Since the PMMC focuses their efforts on healing and rehabilitation, they needed to find a permanent home where Sidney could thrive. That’s when they decided to partner up with the New York Aquarium.
Located in Brooklyn’s Coney Island, the NY Aquarium agreed to take in Sidney as part of their Sea Cliffs exhibit. “Animal care staff worked with her every day to ensure she acclimated comfortably to her new environment and would integrate with the rest of the aquarium’s harbor seals safely,” said the aquarium’s news release. Sidney travelled over 2,800 miles by transport crate and arrived at the aquarium in November of last year.
“We are grateful for the excellent care that the rescue team at the PMMC provided Sidney, and we will make sure she is well cared for at the New York Aquarium,” said Craig Piper, interim director of the aquarium. “We’re proud to partner with other conservation organizations to help individual animals like Sidney while also working to protect entire species and their habitats around the world.
“As New Yorkers come to see Sidney, she will be an endearing ambassador for her species and other marine life, which we believe will have a positive impact on the way people think about and engage with nature.” Sidney has been acclimating to her new environment and has even made a close friend, another female harbor seal named Murphy!
The PMMC and other conservatories like it deal with stranded marine mammals often. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “The majority of strandings in the United States are pinniped species, specifically California seal lions, northern elephant seals, and harbor seals.” Though there are several often-unavoidable reasons why marine mammals may become stranded, like illness and injury, the majority of the cases are caused by human interference — specifically entanglement and injuries caused by ship or vessel collisions.
When a marine animal becomes entangled, this can frequently become a death sentence. Some fishing line is sharp enough to cut into the flesh of the entangled animal over time, while others may be unable to swim or eat due to the way they are entrapped. Additionally, smaller sea creatures like sea turtles can drown if the weight of the fishing net or trash is too heavy. The NOAA urges us all to remember to clean up after ourselves when fishing or boating, or visiting any part of nature. “Whether at the beach, river or local park, trash can often find its way into the ocean and present an entanglement risk.”
If you’d like to help rehabilitate rescued marine mammals like Sidney, consider this gift that gives more. Check out the video below to see how much Sidney has grown since being rescued, and how well she has adapted to New York City life!Whizzco