Picture: Injured sea lion behind cage fence, Marine Mammal Rescue Center, California.
The other day, I took my kids out to the site of the old Sutro Baths, near the Cliff House. After climbing down the stairway toward the beach, we saw a bunch of people gathered in a spot, looking at a baby sea lion laying on the rocks. To my dismay, I saw a male tourist & his older son right down by the animal. The dad was actually petting the animal and smiling for his son, who was taking a picture with his cell phone. Myself and another couple women who walked up at the same time as us immediately started saying to get away from the animal. The fact that the sea lion wasn’t struggling, vocalizing, or even had it’s eyes open despite being quite awake were all obvious signs that the animal was in distress. While the concerned ladies next to me called the Marine Mammal Rescue Center in nearby Sausalito, I started doing a little crowd control telling people not to approach the animal.
After the small crowd had mostly dispersed, I took my kids aside and explained to them that we had a choice to make; we could leave and go have our own fun, or we could sacrifice some of our ‘fun time’ to help protect the sea lion by keeping other tourists away. I was really proud of my son when he said, “Stay with the Sea Lion.” While we were talking, I heard a woman tell a ‘photographer’ tourist, “Hey, don’t do that!” Apparently, while holding his dSLR up to his face, he threw a small pebble at the animal trying to get it’s attention. My vocal response and glare at him was his invitation to make a hasty tucked-tail retreat from the scene. We stayed in the area for awhile, and when some other people offered to watch the animal, my kids got time to go play in the sand. When we returned, a volunteer from the MMC had just arrived, and quickly scooped the weakened animal into a net, and subsequently transferred into a dog carrier.
The take away life lesson for my kids was about the good in us making choices in life to act as the protective stewards for wildlife and the earth in general. The choice in foregoing fun for protecting the sea lion from unthinking tourists was admirable, and not an easy choice for a kid to make, but I gave them plenty of praise for making that right choice.
Volunteers from the Marine Mammal Rescue Center release rehabilitated sea lions on beach at Point Lobos State Reserve, Monterey County coast, California
This event also gave me a chance to reflect on the time I shot the Marine Mammal Center for a magazine. Not only did I get to visit the center in Sausalito, but I also got to shoot a release down at Point Lobos, near Carmel. Although I didn’t have my camera on this trip with my kids, I looked on thinking about what would have been the good “money shot”. For editorial and photojournalists, catching the peak moment of action that tells the story is always a paramount consideration. In this shot, I had only a couple seconds while the sea lions were in front of the cages, as they scampered off toward the ocean.
Finally, if you’re not familiar, like some of the tourists who said, “Look at the pretty seal”; if it’s brown and shaped like a torpedo, it’s a sea lion. If it’s shaped like a wad of lightly rolled gray play-dough from a kids hands, it’s a seal. (That’s the technical definition.)
Comment on this post:
Copyright info for using or linking to the pictures.