SAN DIEGO — Three sea lions and an elephant seal brought to SeaWorld San Diego for treatment in May following an oil spill near Santa Barbara were returned to the ocean Friday.
They were among 25 survivors out of the 62 oil-covered marine mammals brought from Refugio State Beach to SeaWorld in May. They had to be assessed, stabilized and washed by animal care staff, and were later fed, hydrated and provided medication.
Another 37 of the marine mammals brought to the park died, Kelly Terry of SeaWorld San Diego said.
Survivors were rehabilitated in the park’s Animal Rescue Center, and the rest will be released over the next few weeks, as soon as they reach a good weight, are free of infection and can compete for food, according to SeaWorld.
SeaWorld San Diego employees have rescued more than 1,000 marine mammals this year, the vast majority being severely ill and emaciated sea lions pups suffering from a lack of fish to eat.
The demand on employees became so great that the park had to suspend its sea lion and otter shows for a couple of weeks in April.