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Arts and Entertainment

'Buddy' The Blind Sea Lion Makes His Debut At L.A. Zoo

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Buddy, a blind, 700-pound California sea lion, made his debut Tuesday morning at the L.A. Zoo's Sea Life Cliffs. This marks the first time in eight years that visitors will be able to see a California sea lion at the park.

Buddy's background comes with a story about goodwill and the persistence of animal rescuers. As detailed at KPCC, he was found malnourished, emaciated, and blind at Manhattan Beach in July 2016. Buddy was brought to the Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles for treatment. Andrea Delegal, who works at the L.A. Zoo, told KPCC that the sea lion lifestyle could have contributed to Buddy's blindness; they travel far out in the water in search of food, and they often sit with their eyes level to the water—the strong UV rays in these conditions can have a detrimental effect on their eyesight.

Because he's blind and unable to hunt, it was decided the zoo was a logical home for Buddy. “This California sea lion was deemed non-releasable due to his injuries and blindness,” Jeff Cozad, executive director of the Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles, told City News Service. “That’s when the Los Angeles Zoo stepped in. They felt our patient would enhance their Sea Life Cliffs exhibit and found him to be a perfect fit."

Buddy is estimated to be about 10 years in age. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that California sea lions have an expected lifespan of 20 to 30 years. So, in terms of human years, Buddy's about 30 years old—he's got a steady gig but still trying to figure out his love life and his ability to pony up for a down payment.

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As noted at by the zoo, there's often some confusion about the difference between a seal and a sea lion. The differences go as such:

First, seals are part of the “true seal” family that characteristically has no earflaps, but rather earholes located behind the eyes. Sea lions, on the other hand, are part of the eared seals and, true to their name, have visible earflaps on the sides of their head.
Second, seals have short forelimbs and are unable to walk sturdily on land. Sea lions, though, have large forelimbs that they are able to tuck underneath their bodies when on land, allowing them to walk on all fours.
Third, seals use a powerful hind flipper to power themselves through the water while only using its forelimbs for steering. The sea lion, on the other hand, uses its large forelimbs to propel and maneuver itself through the water (similar to how a bird uses its wings to fly)

The more you know!

As noted at CNS, Buddy isn't the only rescued marine mammal to have recently joined the club at Sea Life Cliffs. Ziggy, an 18-month old female Pacific harbor seal, was rescued, rehabilitated, and later introduced to the zoo on November 1.

The L.A. Zoo is at 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 644-4200. The zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., though many animals will be gone from viewing by 4 p.m.