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Animal Response Teams Give California Sea Lions Second Chance at Life with Rescue and Rehabilitation Efforts

Shedd Aquarium heeds the cross-country call for support from Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute

March 26, 2020

A rescued sea lion at CIMWI in California awaits treatment.

Members of Shedd Aquarium’s Animal Response Team returned home early from a trip to California, where they traveled to provide extra support at the start of the busy season for marine mammal strandings on the coastline. The trip from March 1-18 was the latest in a longstanding partnership with Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (CIMWI), a nonprofit all-volunteer organization that leads year-long efforts responding to wildlife in need.

Alongside volunteers at the rescue facility, Shedd’s animal care team assisted with medical assistance and rehabilitation care for the rescued sea lion pups before their eventual release back to the wild for the recovered animals. Shedd called these caretakers home early to ensure their safety and to focus on the continued care of the animals at the aquarium while it is closed to the public.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to take my knowledge, skills and hard work from the aquarium and apply it to rehabilitation efforts at CIMWI,” said Lauren Czudak, veterinary technician at Shedd Aquarium. “We were able to come together for one great purpose: to provide wild marine mammals with a second chance at life.”

Two team members from the aquarium provided their expertise as they worked tirelessly and prepared food, administered medication, cleaned habitats, performed treatments, entered medical records and much more. In addition, Shedd’s Animal Response Team assisted with releases for several sea lion pups to return them back to the wild off the island of Santa Cruz after successful rehabilitation by CIMWI. Once the sea lions were released, they adapted instantly back to their natural environment.

“Our facility is on the frontlines responding to calls of injured and sick stranded marine mammals,” said Ruth Dover, director at CIMWI. “We can’t do it alone, we depend on volunteers to come together to provide rescue and rehabilitation care, including those from our partners like Shedd Aquarium. Together, we share in the experience, skill and cross-training, which are invaluable, mutually-beneficial opportunities for our organizations as we work to positively impact conservation efforts.”

As strandings increase across the coastline, they can occur for a variety of reasons, including injury, malnutrition and illness. Sometimes pups can face challenges getting nutrition the need on their own after being weaned from their mothers. While California sea lions continue to face increasing threats, facilities like CIMWI continue to provide the necessary care to ensure their survival.

“Being a member of the Animal Response Team, there is no more rewarding experience than answering the call of our partners to assist with their rehabilitation efforts and watching the real impact you can have like when releasing a sea lion pup back to its natural wild habitat,” said Duke Stacey, animal care specialist at Shedd Aquarium.

To keep Shedd’s Animal Response Team ready to rescue, learn how to support these efforts by visiting In addition, for ways to support CIMWI, visit

VISUALS: Photos and video of the rescue, rehabilitation and release efforts are available for download:

Credit: ©CIMWI