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Ocean Animal Emergency

Program Overview

NOVA takes you into California's Marine Mammal Center emergency room to tell the inspirational, heartwarming—and sometimes heartbreaking—story of a team of wildlife veterinarians and volunteers who work to save sick and injured ocean animals.

The program:

  • follows rescuers as they bring in Ouzel, an elephant seal near death.

  • details the species that are found in coastal waters—northern elephant seals, California sea lions, and Pacific harbor seals.

  • reports on the case of a harbor seal found with a cluster of growths on its mouth that were threatening its survival.

  • notes that some of the rescued animals are malnourished because they have not yet learned to feed and addresses the question of whether intervention is appropriate in cases where natural events would determine whether the animal lived or died.

  • shows how volunteers at the center insert a tube into an animal's stomach to give it the nourishment it needs to regain its health.

  • states the center's goal—to get an animal to a healthy weight and eating on its own so that it can be returned to the sea.

  • introduces Tax Man, a sea lion with a deep cut in its head from being entangled in ocean garbage.

  • notes that only about half of the patients brought to the center make it to a successful release.

  • reports on a harbor seal, named Duchamp, that was brought in after being separated from its mother prior to being nursed.

  • follows several of the animals as they receive care, including a harbor seal pup that is given a CT scan by staff trying to diagnose her illness, and two other marine mammals that are humanely euthanized because of the extent of their injuries.

  • shows how researchers tag elephant seals with satellite transmitters to learn more about how they find and get food, and reports on what was learned from some of the tagged animals.

  • reveals how center staff and volunteers closely observe the animals in order to detect behavioral changes that may signal changes in health.

  • explains how epidemiologists determined that a neurotoxin was affecting some California sea lions and shows how the scientists are trying to pinpoint the toxin's origin.

  • reports on what ultimately happened to each animal profiled in the program.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after program is recorded off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Ocean Animal Emergency