CHICAGO — A sea lion rescued from a California beach earlier this year has been moved to the Shedd Aquarium's public tanks after months of behind-the-scenes recovery and training.
Laguna, now 1½ years old, made his public debut at the Grainger Sea Lion Cove last week, Shedd officials said.
The sea lion was named after the beach where he was discovered emaciated and starving in January.
He was among more than 1,400 starving young sea lions that washed up between January and May along the Southern California coast, an event that was classified as an “unusual mortality event” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Shedd officials said they sent two trainers over to the area to assist rescue centers in saving as many of the animals as they could.
Laguna was cared for at a marine mammal rescue unit before being reintroduced into the ocean in March. But he again was found malnourished six weeks later, this time under a pier in Ventura County, according to hedd.
After being fed and cared for again, Shedd took him in in June, where aquarium officials said he has been learning "the training basics all the marine mammals learn."
According to NOAA, classifying what happened to the sea lions as an unusual mortality event will help pump more resources into determining why and how so many pups washed ashore.
It's not the first time Shedd has exhibited rescued sea lions from California. Back in January, the aquarium introduced Cruz, a blind pup that had suffered gunshot wounds.
Visitors can see Laguna and the rest of Shedd's sea lions during rotating exhibits at the aquarium.