Story by Elizabeth Perkin
MYSTIC-- There have been hundreds of California sea lions stranded off the west coast in recent weeks and months. The Marine Mammal Center, Mystic Aquarium’s colleague in animal rescue and rehab has had their hands full.
Back on July 25, 2018 they rescued Yura, a 12-13 year old, adult female, Northern fur seal. During the evening after her rescue, Yura gave birth to a male pup, Tuk.
Caretakers immediately noticed signs of neurological issues in Yura. She and her pup were transported to Sea World San Diego for rehabilitation.
There Yura was given an MRI, which showed non-reversible neurologic lesions consistent with domoic acid exposure.
Domoic acid is a neurotoxin produced by a variety of marine algae or diatoms. The toxin is produced in large quantities during algae blooms and is then consumed by fish and shellfish. It does not kill the fish or shellfish but, if eaten by birds, man or other mammals it can produce systemic poisoning.
Yura was deemed non-releasable due to her seizure activity and lifelong need for anti-seizure medications.
Mystic Aquarium decided to give her and her pup a forever home. Something they had done back in 2014 for Ziggy Star, another female fur seal with a serious neurological condition.
Dr. Jen Flower, Chief Clinical Veterinarian at Mystic Aquarium said, “Yura is on seizure medications and has been doing great since arriving at Mystic.” She continued to say, “We are happy to report that she has not experienced any seizures.”
Her pup Tuk is doing great in his new habitat, as well. Erin Gibbons, Assistant Supervisor of Pinnipeds said, “The very first night Tuk was on habitat, Adak let him sleep right next to him and all four can be seen actively engaged in a strong social group.”