A California sea lion who made headlines last year after he was blinded by gunshot wounds has made an impressive recovery, but won’t be released back into the ocean.
Senor Cinco, so named because he was found on May 5, 2017, was discovered emaciated and weak on Spanish Banks beach in Vancouver, suffering from two gunshot wounds believed to have been from a small-calibre gun weeks earlier.
He was immediately brought to the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, where he underwent surgery to remove the bullets, as well as broken teeth.
“We could tell immediately that his condition was critical,” said Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the rescue centre, in a news release at the time. “An adult sea lion should not be easy to approach, but he was lethargic and not responsive to activity around him on the busy public beach.”
One year later, the sea lion is doing much better, gaining an impressive 140 kilograms, or just more than 300 pounds.
But his permanent injuries from the gunshots, including blindness in both eyes, makes it impossible for him to eat on his own, so the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has declared that Senor Cinco cannot be released back into the wild.
The animal will now call the Sugar Habitat at the aquarium home, becoming the first California sea lion to take up residence there.
“He is settling in just fine,” said curator of marine mammals Brian Sheehan. “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 behaviours that will help us take care of him, and provide exercise and enrichment.”