Featured Image Credit: Vancouver Aquarium
Making the headlines last year, a California sea lion was blinded by gunshot wounds to his face. Senor Cinco, named because he was found on Cinco de Mayo 2017 on Spanish Banks beach, Has made an impressive recovery and will be moved into comfortable new digs at the Vancouver Aquarium, an Ocean Wise initiative.
When first reported to Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, he was in poor condition. The adult male had been shot in the face using a small caliber gun, likely several weeks before his stranding, which resulted in blindness in both eyes and broken teeth. Due to his injuries, he was not able to feed himself, causing him to be emaciated and too weak to move.
Sea lions are not usually easy to approach, but he was lethargic and not responsive to the activity around him. His first full examination under anesthetic showed two bullets lodged in his head. Senor Cinco is estimated to be about 10 years old, gained both a reputation for relaxed sunbathing and an impressive 140- plus kilograms over the 13 months of his recovery. He also won the hearts of all who met and cared for him.
Senor Cinco is loved by his caretakers at the Vancouver Aquarium. “…Cinco really is a special animal; he’s a bit of a gentle giant. He can’t see us but he responds to the sound of our voices and takes his fish like such a gentleman.” said Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Rescue Centre. Because he is blind and unable to take care of himself, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has deemed Cinco non-releasable.
“He is setting in just fine,” said Brian Sheehan, curator of marine mammals at Vancouver Aquarium. “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 behaviors that will help us take care of him, and provide exercise and enrichment,” explained Sheehan. “In Cinco’s case, because he’s blind, we’ll be relying on hearing and touch rather than sight.”
Senor Cinco is the first California sea lion to become a resident of the Vancouver Aquarium. The male species is distinguishable from its cousin, the Steller sea lion, by its blonde ‘buzzcut’, the sagittal crest on its head. California sea lions can also be identified by their barking sounds compared the to ‘lawnmower’ vocalizations made by Stellers.
To see Senor Cinco in his new habitat, visit the Vancouver Aquarium. There you can learn more about the special adjustments both he and the marine mammal team will make to compensate for his vision impairment.