Sunday, March 22, 2009
This week was incredibly busy for the volunteers. Usually we have 2 animal care specialists at any given time, along with 4 to 6 volunteers. When I walked in this Friday I found out that I might be the only one volunteering, and that we only had one animal care specialist on call! Another volunteer ended up coming in later, so for the entire day it was just the 3 of us instead of our usual 7 or 8!
The lack of help boiled down to one thing: none of us had a single second of time to spare. Because of that, I couldn't take many pictures this week, but I did experiment with some video (The video I recorded this week was more of practice run than anything else. Now that I know I can put video up on here I'll be trying to capture some better footage). Here's a photo I took of the rescue center, on my way back from dumping the garbage.
The center is in a beautiful canyon in southern California. After it rains the plant life blooms into a deep emerald carpet that covers the canyon walls. Oddly enough, this is the second big red barn I've worked at (in southern Cali you don't come across barns very often).
We had a lot of new arrivals this week. Two new Elephant Seals have joined Augustine in Juvenile Unit 2. Since it was cold out, we kept them inside (where their stench could fester quietly until the whole barn smelled). The picture below is of Natasha, and Bobcat is giving a lethargic hello in the video.
That sound you hear in the video is of them breathing. Their nostrils completely close up, and open in short bursts when they inhale- this keeps water out of their noses when they are under water. They can utilize an amazing amount of oxygen that their bodies take in- even from those brief inhalations. Their ability to carry around large quantities of oxygen in their blood allows them to hold their breath for extended periods of time (for Elephant Seals, the max amount of time is around 80 minutes).
Unfortunately I couldn't get any more pictures of them together, but Wexford (the Harbor Seal from last week) gets along really well with the 3 Ele's.
In Unit 1 we have Limrick, Samoa, and Arco (yes, Arco is doing well since last week!), along with our 3 new Sea Lions: Ming, Emerald, and Catlin. Catlin came in with a laceration starting at the mouth and going up the side of her muzzle (think the Joker from The Dark Knight). It looks like a fishing hook was caught there before she came to the center. Doc fixed her up, but she had to stay in the Med Room all day so she wouldn't reopen her wound while interacting with the other Sea Lions. Ming and Emerald are still getting used to their 3 new friends.
Here's a picture of Ming trying to suckle on Arco. Below is a video of the two of them, with Emerald trying to position herself on her blanket.
Pinnipeds are wild animals, and as cute as they are they will still attack you if given the chance. Think of them like you would a wolf or coyote instead of like a dog. Because the ultimate goal of the rescue center is to rehabilitate and release the animals, we try to limit our interaction with them as much as possible so they don't become accustomed to humans. We don't talk to the animals like we would with dogs, and we don't pet them or pick them up. This is also for our own safety.
When we move these animals around we use large boards instead of interacting with them directly. This is both for our own safety, and to break the connection to humans the Pinniped might make as we are interacting with them. Here's a picture of a typical board:
Any time we enter a pen we carry a board like this in with us. I brought one in with me this week so that I could move the Ele's around at feeding time, and the second I put the board down against the wall, Bobcat decided to take a bite out of my leg. They don't have sharp teeth, but the raw force of the bite sent her blunt teeth through my rubber pants, through my regular pants, and through my skin (and he's only a baby!). He didn't leave much of a wound, but I got a crazy bruise out of it, along with a lesson to not turn my back on the Elephant Seals..
Next week I'll come back with some better video and pictures! Feel free to leave comments if you have any questions, requests, or anything to say at all. We're also on twitter now, so you can follow us there and get reminders when new blogs are posted! (http://twitter.com/fatpin)
Posted by wolf at 1:48 PM