I first read about the saga of Silent Knight, a sea lion who was shot and blinded, back in December. Without a permanent home in captivity, he was facing possible euthanasia. My heart hurt at that prospect, but I held out hope that he would find a safe haven somewhere in the Bay Area, and thankfully, he did! Today Silent Knight lives with another blind sea lion named Henry at the San Francisco Zoo. Here's a story from the SF Chronicle about the happy outcome for this special pair...
Silent Knight and buddy find home at S.F. Zoo
By Carolyn Jones, San Francisco Chronicle
After 10 years, sea lions have returned to the San Francisco Zoo - in this case, two special-needs pinnipeds, one of whom made headlines in December when he was found struggling on a Sausalito beach, blinded by a gunshot wound to the head.
The 400-pound California sea lion, named Silent Knight for his quiet, dignified demeanor, is now a permanent resident of the zoo after he underwent treatment at the Marine Mammal Center and, because of his disability, was deemed unfit to be released into the wild.
The Marine Mammal Center does not have space to keep him permanently, and Silent Knight was in danger of euthanasia until the San Francisco Zoo stepped in. Zoo staff had read about Silent Knight's plight and arranged with the Marine Mammal Center to adopt the regal sea lion.
Accompanying Silent Knight was Henry, a young, rambunctious and blind sea lion recently brought from Humboldt County. Henry and Silent Knight shared an enclosure at the Marine Mammal Center and had become pals.
"We knew from the get-go this would be a huge undertaking, financially and because of their medical needs," said Debbie Marrin, sea lion keeper at the zoo. "But we wanted to help out. How could you not help out? These guys would have been euthanized."
Silent Knight and Henry made their public debut Friday, doing what sea lions do best: lounging on rocks, gulping herring and taking the occasional dip.
A sign alongside their enclosure explains their story, encouraging the public to respect sea lions, not shoot them.
"I love that these two now have a purpose in life," said Shelbi Stoudt, stranding manager at the Marine Mammal Center. "And I'm happy Silent Knight is staying local. This way we can visit him."
Silent Knight was spotted listless and emaciated on Swede's Beach in Sausalito on Dec. 8 and rescued by Marine Mammal Center staff. His right eye was blown out, and X-rays showed five fragments of buckshot in his brain, mouth and eyes. After a few days it was apparent he was blind in both eyes but was otherwise healthy.
No one knows who shot Silent Knight, but in the past few years the center has seen a rash of fishermen-related sea lion shootings. Sea lions like to eat salmon, and several years of limited salmon runs have left fishermen and sea lions competing for fish.
In 2010, the Marine Mammal Center saw 19 sea lions with gunshot wounds. One of those was Sgt. Nevis, a 650-pound sea lion rescued from the Sacramento River with his nose shot off. Veterinarians at the Marine Mammal Center and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo performed what's thought to be the world's first reconstructive surgery on a sea lion, fixing Sgt. Nevis' nose so he could swim underwater again.
At the zoo, Silent Knight and Henry live in a 3,200-square-foot enclosure with a pool, rocky island and narrow shore. The zoo spent $125,000 to renovate the enclosure, which was last used for some visiting harbor seals in 2005.
Silent Knight and Henry are slowly acclimating to their new accommodations. They've bumped their heads a few times on the edge of the pool, but otherwise are learning to navigate the enclosure with few mishaps.
Because the pair cannot catch fish in the water, zookeepers hand-feed them.
The two are very affectionate with each other, often cuddling or lounging together. That is, until Silent Knight gets sick of Henry.
"Henry can be a little clingy," said Marrin. "But they clearly get some comfort being close to each other. They've been through a lot."