The baby sea lion that snuck into a La Jolla restaurant is being fed and treated by specialists at SeaWorld San Diego, who said Friday that the malnourished and emaciated animal was improving.
"She's pretty content right now," said SeaWorld senior animal care specialist Kevin Robinson. "She's getting along great. She's had a few good meals and plenty of buddies."
And she’s been given the name Marina.
Employees at the Marine Room restaurant found the pup, which is about the size of a small dog, asleep on a seat near a window overlooking the ocean about 8 a.m. Friday, said manager Matt Caponi. Employees called a SeaWorld rescue team, and the pup was awake and moving around by the time the team arrived.
The 8-month-old female California sea lion was underfed and dehydrated, SeaWorld officials said. At 20 pounds, she is considered a “micro pup,” meaning she is half the normal weight for her age.
Caponi suspected the pup might have entered the restaurant through a back door that an employee left open earlier in the morning.
SeaWorld officials said high tides and El Niño’s warm waters have diminished the sea lions’ food supply. There have been 40 rescues of stranded sea lions so far this year in San Diego. In 2015, 990 were rescued.
Statewide, the National Marine Fisheries Service reported that 1,605 distressed sea lions washed up on California beaches between Jan. 1 and March 8 last year.
The Cave Store in La Jolla posted a video on Facebook on Jan. 21 that showed a sea lion inside the store. The pup had climbed up 145 steps and wandered inside the store before it was lured back to the ocean by an employee.
Hernandez writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Debbi Baker contributed to this report.