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S P E C I A L El Niño Returns

Sea lion pups struggle against El Niño's wrath

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    CNN's Jim Hill reports
    February 15, 1998
    Web posted at: 9:33 p.m. EST (0233 GMT)

    From Correspondent Jim Hill

    LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Sea lion pups are being pounded by El Niño-driven winter storms drenching the California coastline.

    The pups are unable to take the battering by the stormy seas, and rehabilitation centers are filled to capacity.

    "We had animals in the office, animals in the gift shop, animals in the hallway," said Ann Bull of Friends of the Sea Lion. "You name the place, if we had room we had an animal there."

    So many of the pups are having problems that stranded pups are now being left alone for 48 hours before being taken to a rehabilitation center.

    As distressing as the situation is, however, experts knew it would come. The warm waters brought by El Niño have dispersed the fish that sea lions rely on for food, and young inexperienced pups can't find enough to eat.

    Experts say it is the ugly side of nature's balance.

    "If we don't let nature thin out these populations when we have these environmental stresses like El Niño, pretty soon the populations are going to go through the ceiling and exceed the environment's capacity to sustain them," said Joe Cordaro of the National Marine Fisheries.


    "We're going to have a population crash like the public just cannot imagine," he said.

    However, rehabilitation centers feel their work is still needed.

    "We don't want to see an animal suffer nor does anyone else," Bull said.

    But California's population of sea lions, elephant seals and harbor seals is thriving, according to the National Marine Fisheries office. It is likely to continue to thrive after El Niño is gone.

    "I know it's tough, but just take solace in the fact that there's a lot of animals out there. Some animals have to die so that others can live," Cordaro said.

    El Nino returns
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