A sea lion found shot in the head late last year, causing him to completely lose his vision, is keeping staff and volunteers on their toes as a more permanent home is being sought, a Marine Mammal Center spokesman said. One possibility? San Francisco’s zoo.
Silent Knight, a roughly 6-year-old male adult, was found on the night of Dec. 8 at Swede’s Beach in Sausalito suffering from a gunshot wound, Marine Mammal Center spokesman Jim Oswald said.
The injury left Silent Knight blind in both eyes, which creates challenges not only for the sea lion, but also for his caretakers.
“He’s basically holding his own,” Oswald said.
Due to his disability, specially trained staff and volunteers have come up with creative ways to care for Silent Knight.
To feed him, care givers tap on a bucket of fish to let him know it’s time to eat and hand feed him through the fence surrounding his pen, according to the center’s website.
Despite being told “all done,” Silent Knight tends to linger in hopes of getting more food.
“He’s eating voraciously,” Oswald said.
After losing about 30 pounds in the first couple of weeks after the shooting, Silent Knight is now up to 345 pounds, which Oswald classified as a normal weight for a sea lion of his size.
Since Silent Knight is blind, he is unable to return to the wild, and the center, in conjunction with the National Marine Fisheries Service, is trying to find a zoo or aquarium that can accommodate him.
Under guidelines set by the Fisheries Service, the center has six months to find to a facility that can offer Silent Knight a permanent home.
If a permanent home is not determined within that time frame, the animal could potentially be euthanized, center officials said, though an extension could be available.
Right now, the center is in negotiations with a couple of zoos and aquariums and has received a lot of requests for Silent Knight, Oswald said. According to the Ex, one of those zoos is the SF Zoo, which “is planning to rebuild its vacant sea lion pool next to the Rainforest Building within the next two months to secure the duo’s debut, Executive Director Tanya Peterson told the Recreation and Park Commission last week.”
Both the Center and the Zoo were reluctant to confirm any details of Knight’s possible move with the Ex, but they report that the transfer’s “details are scheduled for discussion at a meeting of The City’s Joint Zoo Committee on Thursday.”
“He’ll do fine at a zoo or aquarium,” Oswald said, adding that Silent Knight will have to be specially trained on how to navigate his new digs.
“We want to make sure he has the best possible environment,” Oswald said.
Eve Batey contributed to this Bay City News report.