Concerns over the well-being of a sea lion believed to have been taken last weekend from Dockweiler State Beach have intensified.
Now, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is offering a $5,000 reward for any information on the pup's whereabouts.
The Los Angeles Police Department and investigators with the
"This seal pup has already suffered greatly from the trauma of being separated from his or her mother and is most likely terrified, lacking proper nutrition, and in desperate need of rescue," PETA Senior Director Martin Mersereau said in a statement.
The pup was taken about 3 a.m. Sunday when a witness reported seeing two men and two women taunting a pair of pups at Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey, LAPD officials said.
At one point, the group was seen throwing trash and a concrete block at the pups.
A witness who was collecting recyclables told police a woman in the group wrapped one of the baby sea lions in a comforter, placed it in the trunk of a dark-colored Honda Civic and drove off.
The Honda Civic was last seen heading south on Vista del Mar, police said. The license plate number, according to the witness, ends with the numbers 56.
The second pup, which was not harmed, was found hiding in the bushes near a bike path.
Federal law prohibits the harassment, hunting, capture or killing of sea lions. The criminal penalty for hurting a pup is up to $100,000 in fines and/or a year in jail, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It is unclear whether the sea lion was among the thousands of pups that were left abandoned on state beaches.
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, more than 2,000 sickly sea lions pups were found stranded on California beaches during the first three months of this year.
Researchers say dwindling food sources and warmer oceans have led to the strandings, as well as infectious disease outbreaks and harmful algae blooms.