Marine Mammal Center, Veterninary Research Hospital & Educational Ctr., Calif. & Hawaii

The Marine Mammal Center, Research, Education, Saving Marine Mammals: Northern California and Kona, HawaiiThe Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit veterinary research hospital and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals–primarily elephant seals, harbor seals, and California sea lions. Based in Sausalito, California since 1975, in the Marin Headlands within the Golden Gate National Parks, the center has rescued and treated more than 20,000 marine mammals.  

Ke-Kai-Ola, The Marine Mammal Center, Kona, Hawaii Our mission is to expand knowledge about marine mammals—their health and that of their ocean environment—and to inspire their global conservation. Our core work is the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured marine mammals, supported by state-of-the-art animal care and research facilities, a corps of dedicated volunteers, and an engaged community.

Hawaiian Monk Seal, saved by The Marine Mammal Center, Kona, HawaiiThe opening of The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital represents a major step forward for the recovery of the Hawaiian monk seal population as it is the first-ever rehabilitation facility devoted to this critically endangered species. In addition to providing medical care for these animals, The Marine Mammal Center is also monitoring Hawaiian monk seal haul out activity and managing rescue efforts for sick and injured seals on the beaches of West Hawaii near Ke Kai Ola. Our education experts lead outreach programs onsite in Kona, Hawaii, as well as throughout the community to raise awareness about the monk seal’s plight.

Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release

National Marine Center feeding Elephant Seas during rehabilitation and period to study these marine mammals. Science – the Key to Understanding Marine Mammal Health: During rehabilitation of the animals, our research team studies the causes of their illnesses and by doing so, learns about conditions affecting the health of marine mammal populations and the oceans – conditions that can affect humans as well. Our core research includes studying domoic acid poisoning in sea lions, bacterial infections such as leptospirosis, and even cancer, which is found in approximately 17% of adult sea lions that undergo post mortem at our hospital.

Inspiring Stewardship of Our Oceans: Our education programs teach nearly 30,000 students and adults each year about marine mammals and the urgent need for environmental stewardship of earth’s marine environments, with the goal of inspiring ocean conservation. Our school programs are designed to support the California State Academic Standards for science. Additionally, our Youth Crew provides teenage ocean stewards with hands-on experience as volunteers working with animal care crews or as education docents.

The Marine Mammal Center new headquarters in Marin, Northern California

Our New Home: In 2009, we opened a new facility in our original location in the Marin Headlands. This four-year, $32 million transformation has considerably improved our ability to care for and study marine mammals, provides a collaborative work environment for staff and volunteers, and now offers the public the opportunity to learn about the interdependence they share with marine mammals and the ocean through exhibits and open viewing of animal care and work areas.

Our new Center is one of the largest marine mammal hospitals in the world to combine animal rehabilitation with an onsite research lab. We can care for more than 200 animals at once and treat 600 or more a year.

A Day in the Life of The Marine Mammal Center

National Marine Center Rescue operation to save a seal for rehabilitation and study. Responding Responsibly: We rescue marine mammals for many different reasons, including malnourishment, separation, entanglements, and diseases, but nearly 10% of the animals we rescue have been impacted by human interaction and hazards like net and fishing line entanglements, gun shots, illegal pick-ups, and boat strikes–making their rescue all the more our responsibility.

Recognizing Interdependence: What we do is more than kindhearted consideration for the well-being of other living creatures. We recognize the fundamental relationship that binds humans, animals, and the ocean. Covering more than 70% of our planet, the ocean is Earth’s primary life-support system–and these animals are critical bellwethers of its health. By caring for them, we care for all of life.

National Marine Center Rescue operation with Golden Gate Bridge in background saving a seal for rehabilitation and study. Expanding Knowledge: We partner with leading scientists and other professionals in order to learn from the patients in our care–patients from healthy, endangered, and at-risk populations–and to expand and advance scientific knowledge, thus enhancing understanding of the health of our oceans and the implications for human health. We disseminate knowledge to members of the scientific community and the general public. Ultimately, we inspire action and foster stewardship towards the care of our environment.

Our Responsibility. Our Passion. Our Values:

  • We rescue and humanely treat ill, injured, or orphaned marine mammals, and return healthy ones to the wild. Since 1975, our hospital facility has rescued and treated over 18,000 elephant seals, sea lions, whales, sea otters, harbor seals, fur seals, dolphins, harbor porpoises and more–many from threatened and endangered species.
  • We educate and communicate to help build a sense of responsibility and connection to the marine environment and marine mammals, and inspire action to protect the oceans. Each year, our education programs and events reach over 30,000 children and adults.
  • We conduct scientific inquiry to increase knowledge of marine mammals, their health and their environment, and to help assure their long-term survival. Our science programs derive vital data from our sick and injured patients – what diseases they suffer, how their immune systems work, and how they’re affected by changes in their environment.
Staff of The National Marine Mammal Center, with headquarters in Northern California and a facility in Kona, Hawaii. Our People: Our work relies on hundreds of people just like you. More than 1,100 volunteers from throughout our 600 mile rescue range–from Mendocino County through San Luis Obispo County–are a vital part of what we do from rescue through rehabilitation, release and education.

Your Help Counts!: You are absolutely critical to our work. Federal law protects marine mammals, but we rely on your support so we can help them when that protection fails. We started in 1975 from the efforts of three local citizens, and ever since, it’s been our members, volunteers, and supporters who make it possible for us to continue. Only with your help can we succeed – please join us in working together to make a better future for individual marine mammals and all of us.

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