It was “almost like she wanted to have dinner,” Guillas told Reuters. That’s exactly what she wanted, SeaWorld officials said. They arrived on the scene soon after restaurant employees notified them of the situation. The sea lion’s lethargic actions were an early sign that it was malnourished; the pup cuddled into the cushions of the Marine Room’s beachside booth when the rescuers arrived and barely put up a fight when they dropped it in a net.
“Good for you for finding this spot!” one rescuer said as she coaxed the baby out of its new home. “I know, I know, I know, we’re going to get you feeling better. Don’t rip the furniture!”
The rescue team transported the pup back to SeaWorld’s San Diego theme park, where it got a big meal. They weighed the little sea lion before introducing it to the other rescued sea lions at the facility. The “micro pup” was only 20 lbs., less than half the weight of normal 8-month-old California sea lions.
SeaWorld alone has rescued more than 40 sea lions in 2016, AP reports, and even more have washed ashore throughout California. And while sea lion rescues happen every year, this winter has seen a spike that some are attributing to El Nino.
Many other sea lions just like SeaWorld’s newest rescue are traipsing far from the beach in search of warmth, high ground and something to eat. The high tides and warm waters from El Nino have depleted the sea lion’s food supply, SeaWorld officials said to the San Diego Union-Tribune. But at least in this pup’s case, the rescuers are “cautiously optimistic” it will be rehabilitated and returned to the wild.