A blind California sea lion that was found with gunshots to the face last year has moved into a new home at the Vancouver Aquarium.
The sea lion was given the name Señor Cinco because he was found on Cinco de Mayo (May 5) on Vancouver’s Spanish Banks.
The Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre said he was shot with a small-calibre gun that left him blinded, with broken teeth and unable to feed himself.
“We could tell immediately that his condition was critical,” rescue centre manager Lindsaye Akhurst said in a media release.
Coverage of the Vancouver Aquarium on Globalnews.ca:
“An adult sea lion should not be easy to approach, but he was lethargic and not responsive to activity around him on the busy public beach.”
Staff believe the sea lion, who is about 10 years old, may have been shot weeks earlier.
When veterinarians examined him, they found he still had two bullets lodged in his head.
After surgery to remove the bullets and his broken teeth, Señor Cinco started to eat again and he has now returned to a healthy weight of about 140 kilograms, the rescue centre said.
Because he is blind, Señor Cinco was determined by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to be non-releasable, according to the aquarium.
He was transferred from the rescue centre to the aquarium’s main facility in Stanley Park on Wednesday.
“He is settling in just fine,” said Vancouver Aquarium marine mammal curator Brian Sheehan.
“His first day was spent starting to feel his way around his new habitat, but in the weeks and months to come, Cinco will begin his training, learning behaviours that will help us take care of him, and provide exercise and enrichment.”
Cinco will be the first California sea lion to live at the aquarium.
The animals breed off the southern California coast and the Baja peninsula but migrate in large numbers to British Columbia during non-breeding season.
However, he won’t be the first blinded animal to find itself in the care of the aquarium.
Back in 2013, a sea otter named Walter was also found with gunshot wounds. He was also deemed non-releasable due to blindness and a partially amputated flipper. Walter died in 2015 at an estimated age of 15 to 17 years old.