Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Training Sea Lions to Aid in Rescue

The Oceanogràfic at the City of Arts and Sciences is pioneering a new marine mammal training program—one that opens the door for oceanic air-breathers to pursue more rewarding careers than trick-performing at themed amusement parks. The Valencia-based research institute is currently assessing the potential and ability for sea lions to aid in rescue.


Sea lions are well-equipped for life-saving. They possess exceptional eyesight and hearing, they can skillfully maneuver through water even in tight spaces and choppy waves, and they even can go ashore if necessary for combined land-water rescues. And to seal the deal (ha), they are highly trainable.

Some instances where a trained rescue sea lion could be invaluable are in dangerous coastal waters unsuitable for life boats, carrying life lines to vessels in extreme danger, stabilizing the line on which the rescuer descends from a helicopter, searching for sunken bodies, and recovering objects. Another big plus: sea lions have the ability to make repeated deep dives without suffering from decompression sickness (unlike humans).

This training program is a fantastic endeavour, and I'm sure any drowning person would welcome the sight of a sea lion with a lifesaver for a backpack. Just as long as they steer clear of any loose seals sporting yellow bow ties, as such an encounter could potentially be disastrous.


(Speaking of bow ties, one critical question that has not yet been addressed is what their uniforms going to look like?)

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