Blog: Punta San Juan (Peru)

Tracking the Future of Punta San Juan

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Photo courtesy of Susana C├írdenas-Alayza

Monitoring Punta San Juan’s sea lion population is just one of the ways we track the health of the local ecosystem.  Each year we collect data to monitor size, weight, and general health of the animals, but this year, for the first time, Chicago Zoological Society’s Dr. Mike Adkesson and Susana Cardenas led a team of US and Peruvian scientists in examining South American sea lions during their breeding season.

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While Punta San Juan Reserve is home to over 10,000 sea lions this time of year, they are exceptionally skittish, making it extremely difficult for biologists and veterinarians to work with the animals.  Over the past decade our team has developed safe methods for anesthetizing and studying male sea lions, but the females are only accessible during their breeding season.  This trip was the FIRST time adult female sea lions have ever been fully assessed under anesthesia in Peru.

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A total of fifteen adult female sea lions were examined by our team. All were immobilized, under the careful observation of Chicago Zoological Society’s veterinary team.  Senior veterinarian specializing in anesthesia, Dr. Sathya Chinnadurai, and veterinary fellow in anesthesia, Dr. Julie Balko, also collected detailed anesthetic data using a new piece of monitoring equipment that measures oxygen delivery to a sea lion’s organs and tissues while under anesthesia.  This cutting edge technology is being researched by the experts at CZS as a way to make anesthesia even safer for marine mammals.

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Our staff was also able to equip seven lactating females with satellite tracking devices that monitor where the sea lions are heading to find food over the next several months.  The data collected from these tracked females will help our scientists better understand where sea lions look for food and how long they spend away from their pups while searching for a meal.

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Photo courtesy  of Mark Wanner

The 15 females that participated in the study are a reflection of the health of the greater South American sea lion population in Punta San Juan, Peru and the world.   The information that is gathered and learned from our field work will go on to help future generations of animals in the ocean, as well as human care.  

Posted: 5/23/2017 12:51:39 PM by Oksana Schak | with 0 comments


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