The Marine Mammal Department Plans for Big Changes

By Michael Remski, Marine Mammal Program Manager

Photo by Jennifer Brent
The step between pens makes moving animals difficult for staff and hard on the animals.

Looking ahead to our “off season,” (when there are few rescue calls and no animals are held on site) there are some exciting renovations planned for our marine mammal enclosure.  Since 2013, the existing structure has performed very well over its lifespan, allowing for five successful seasons of marine mammal rehabilitation.  183 patients (90 sea lions and 93 elephant seals) have called this enclosure their home for at least a short period of time.  And although that may not seem like very many animals, consider the fact that that equates to over nine tons of animals residing on a structure originally built to stand for only a single season.

We have asked a lot of our platform style enclosure, and although it has served us well, it is time to retire it, and start from scratch. Construction will take place as soon as our last patient leaves our doors for their ocean home sometime in late July of this year.

Although we will not be able to increase our overall footprint, we will be able to make some major improvements over the existing layout.  First and foremost, an enclosed hallway will be incorporated.  This will allow a safer way to enter and exit each pen, as well as provide a corridor for moving animals between pens or to and from the transport vehicles. A loading dock will be incorporated into the enclosure to facilitate moving animals on and off trucks during intakes and releases. Large, heavy deliveries can also make use of this loading dock.  All three pens within the enclosure will be on one level and have easy transition areas from one to the other, rather than having small barriers in between that get in the way of rolling carts or low profile animals (specifically elephant seals). Lastly, the entire enclosure will be on a steeper grade to accommodate better drainage, the floor topcoat will be a smooth PVC material, and the number of drains will be increased.  We are in the process of securing funding to off-set the costs of this necessary project.

As I look ahead, I cannot even attempt to predict what next year will bring to the shores of Malibu.  But whatever 2018 should bring our way, CWC will be ready. With our improved enclosure, amazing volunteers, and dedicated staff, I have no doubt it will be another great and successful year.