Imagine that you are lying on the beach — hungry and sick. You hear the familiar sound of the waves hitting the shore, but you are alone and afraid. You have no idea where your mother is, but you have been looking for her.
That’s what life was like for a little sea lion that was found on July 2, 2012 on a set of stairs near a beach in Santa Cruz, California. After he was found, he was rushed to The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. T
he veterinarians there found that he had very little energy and was malnourished. He didn’t even react to the humans who were taking care of him. They also noticed a problem with his eyes: One eye was missing and the other was injured. The doctors took X-rays and discovered something horrible: bullet fragments.
Someone had shot the pup, destroying one eye and leaving him blind in the other. The staff at the center took care of the little sea lion and he got better quickly. Soon he was eating six or seven pounds of fish a day. The pup, about a year old, was healthy and curious, but he could not be released back into the wild.
Without his vision he wouldn’t be able to hunt for food or avoid predators. The Marine Mammal Center and the National Marine Fisheries Service began looking for a home at a zoo or an aquarium where the pup could live comfortably, free of distress and fear. In the meantime, staffers at the center worked with the sea lion every day. He began to respond to sound cues and interactions with people. He learned to target,
Source : Pixabay
or touch his nose, to a long-handled rattle, and he even started to recognize a few words like “follow” and “wait.” He was always playful and energetic. The sea lion lived at The Marine Mammal Center for almost six months until he was ready to move to his permanent home at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois.
He flew there in a pet carrier on an airplane, accompanied by animal care experts from Shedd. They were amazed by his fearless personality on his first plane ride. When the young sea lion arrived at Shedd, he got to know his new home and the other rescued sea lions that lived there. He also got his permanent name — Cruz — in honor of the beach where he was found. Once at Shedd, Cruz’s curiosity took hold. Each time he entered a new space, he’d explore the perimeter and use his whiskers to sense his surroundings.
Because he couldn’t see, he seemed to make a mental map of each new space. He never forgot a space after he memorized it. Every day, when Cruz heard the animal care staff members preparing for his training session, he swam eagerly around the habitat, ready to begin. His trainer would shake the rattle in front of him, guiding him out of his pool, across the floor and up a low platform he had learned to climb. His caregivers also had to learn something: to make sure to always use sound and touch cues to communicate instead of the visual signals they gave the other sea lions. Cruz needed to get used to his caregivers touching him so they could take care of…
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