SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Four sea lions found dehydrated and malnourished on area beaches earlier this year are scheduled to be returned to the ocean Wednesday morning, according to SeaWorld San Diego.
The sea lions underwent two to three months of rehabilitation at the theme park's Animal Rescue Center. SeaWorld has rescued more than 400 marine mammals this year, double the normal amount by this time of year -- most of them young California sea lions.
According to animal care staff, El Nino conditions make it difficult for the sea lions to find food, and since they hydrate via the fish they eat, they suffer from both malnourishment and dehydration.
They're often emaciated, lethargic and suffering from hypothermia, hypoglycemia, pneumonia and other illnesses to which vulnerable animals can be susceptible when their immune systems become compromised.
Sea lions are returned to the ocean once they're back to a normal weight, are free of secondary infections and can forage for food on their own.
Someone who sees an animal that appears to be ill, injured or abandoned should alert authorities or call SeaWorld's Rescue Hotline at (800) 541-SEAL, or click here to report the animal on the park's website.