The Marine Mammal Center is a rescue and rehabilitation center for sea mammals in the Marin Headlands. It's been under construction for years and, as such, closed to the public. Recently, it re-opened with its brand new facility. I am impressed with how they managed to create a place that is visitor friendly while being respectful of the animals. They are open seven days a week and entry is free (donations appreciated).
I was creeped out by the skulls and skins/hides of animals they rescue (perhaps not the specific animals they rescued but still). But that's me.
The center has solar panels installed over every pen, which reduces energy consumption by 10% and also provides much needed shade to the animals in each pen. Here's some more information on ways MMC is reducing their impact on the environment.
The facility was very well-kept and clean.
This picture would have been better had the sea lion been barking but she wasn't. Instead, she glared at me. Probably for making too much clicking noises with my camera. For shame, really.
Unfortunately, sea lions are not faring well, particularly young ones. In Chile, more than a thousand sea lions have died - the current suggested cause is El Nino, which can affect the prevalence of the fish sea lions and other marine mammals need to survive. The Marine Mammal Center has taken in around 1,500 sea lions this year, the most since 1998. In Santa Barbara, thousands of sea lions have starved to death around the Channel Islands. All the current residents at the center are sea lions (which is normal for this time of year). Starvation or dehydration seems like an awful way to go, and it is painful to see animals who should have a nice thick layer of fat look so skinny.
Here a few juveniles are moved into a new pen.
The facility is set up for 200 animals, though I imagine they've had to get creative with the massive influx of sea lions this year. Each pen has a swimming pool in the middle and concrete areas for lounging. They are relatively small, which works well since most of the animals are a) temporary residents and b) injured/sick and shouldn't move about too much. Today, there were between 3-5 sea lions per enclosure.
The sea lion below really wanted to get out and he was using any means necessary to try and escape, including clamoring up on his pen-mate. She was not amused.
So then he tried to scale up the wall and fence. He didn't get far at all and fell back down. He gave up after awhile. Apparently, though, adult sea lions have been able to get out of the pens. They can scale the fence and climb up on the solar panels. Usually, they fall back into their pen in the water, which is good. They could experience significant injuries if they fell 15' off the solar panel onto concrete.
Being a sea lion is serious business:
Glaring sea lion is glaring:
I really enjoyed my visit and would love to come again. It was a gorgeous day today, mid-80's, perfect weather. The center is in the middle of the marin headlands so plenty of beautiful views and hiking available.