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Marine Mammal Center: What They Do, What They Need, And How You Can Help (PHOTO GALLERY)

The Sausalito based Marine Mammal Center, in the heart of the Marin Headlands, is a private, non-profit organization that rescues & rehabilitates sick and injured marine mammals. Check out their recent green advancements and see how you can help too.

Doug, volunteer shift supervisor for the past 14-years feeds one of the extended stay rescue animals.
Doug, volunteer shift supervisor for the past 14-years feeds one of the extended stay rescue animals.

The Marine Mammal Center (MMC) may have fewer rescue animals during the winter season, but that doesn’t mean their huge crew of volunteers take the time off, it just means they shift gears to cultivating new ideas, recruiting and fundraising. Because of that, the MMC has several announcements during this last month of the year.

Green Effort Advancements

The MMC's Green Team has been on a mission to reduce facility waste even more. Recognizing that latex gloves were not only a huge expense, but an even larger waste, they sought a solution.

“We use approximately 3000 gloves per week — sorting fish, cleaning and feeding,” explained Shawn Johnson, MMC's Director of Veterinary Science.

It didn’t sit well with the organization that advocates for cleaning up trash in the ocean, that floating latex gloves look like jellyfish to sea mammals who might try to eat them.

“We were already utilizing reusable slickers and boots that can be disinfected, gloves were the next mission,” he said, “After researching and testing different brands, Casabella gloves were strong and durable enough.”

The Marine Mammal Center reached out to the manufacturer who graciously donated 1000 pairs, valued at about $8 each.

Although the environmental impact of the change has not yet been measured accurately, along with the initial investment savings, the annual financial savings is projected to be approximately $10,000.

The Green Team has also been responsible several other eco-friendly efforts this year, including a newer partnership with Petaluma's Tara Firma Farms, utilizing leftover thawed fish for composting, and new solar panels that produce more than one-third of the power for extensive water filtration system.

The MMC is also committed to sustainable fish farming, purchasing their feed Herring from Pacific Northwest, and is always looking for new ways to be green and develop partnerships with corporations.

How Animals End Up in the Care of the Marine Mammal Center

“Rescue efforts tend to ramp up in the spring [March-September] when pups are born,” says Johnson, “Typically it’s elephant seal pups that are rescued from malnutrition due to maternal separation.”

Other rescues include adult-seal lions with cancers from a combination of genetics, toxin load and the herpes virus, however pollution is currently considered the largest problem.

“Pollution is a huge problem,” Johnson said, as he explained the food chain process, “PCBs are stored in their blubber, ingested through the fish they eat. Another issue is domoic acid, a bio-toxin produced by algae, eaten by the fish that are eaten by sea lions. This acid causes neurologic and cardiac problems, leading to seizures. Algae blooms are increasing due to ocean temperature, pH and nutrients.”

He explained that about 10% of cases are human abuse, and illegal behavior, such as gun shot victims, and removing animals from the shores where they are found.

“Rescue and rehab is always the goal, with most animals averaging about a month stay until they are released, sometimes even less,” Johnson said.

The Marine Mammal Center is Currently Recruiting Volunteers

It takes more than 500-volunteers to maintain the three facility program, care for the 600-800 animals rescued annually, and welcome more than 100,000 visitors per year.

Volunteers are trained passionate advocates, and the center is always recruiting.

If you’re interested in joining the team, next quarterly orientation meeting is in January.

Funding, How Can You Help

The Marine Mammal Center is a private, non-profit organization, which means they receive no government funding, so fundraising is a huge part of their work.

“80% of our funds come from private donors,” said Johnson, explaining that December is the launch of Home For The Holidays, the center’s winter campaign.

Can you help the center raise $175,000 by December 31, 2013?

The Home for the Holidays Fundraising Challenge helps the center give animals like harbor seal Bumblebee, elephant seal Cappy and current patient Tulie, the sea lion, a second chance at life, but they need your help to continue their outreach.

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