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Shedd Aquarium Rescues Two Sea Lions, Including One Blinded By Gunfire

By Samantha Abernethy in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 16, 2013 5:45PM

The Shedd Aquarium rescued two California sea lions, including a pup found blinded in both eyes by gunshot wounds. Cruz, who is one year and nine months old, was found in on a beach in Santa Cruz in July 2012, alone and lethargic.

A five-year-old sea lion named Tanner joins Cruz at the Shedd. Tanner was rescued from the Bonneville Dam area, where sea lions were deemed "criminal" when caught eating endangered salmon populations. This is the third sea lion that the Shedd has granted a reprieve from death row in the Pacific Northwest.

Cruz's x-rays show metal shards from gunshot wounds in his skull that likely caused the blindness. Shedd officials say sometimes stranded animals "are targeted for practice or shot with malicious intent by area fishermen for cutting into their catch or profit, or by boat owners."

Trainers at the Shedd have tackled the challenge of training the blind pup using audio cues instead of visual targets. See video of Cruz with a trainer below.

"We literally have to be his eyes, which requires a solid bond between animal and trainer,"said Ken Ramirez, the Shedd's executive vice president of animal care and training. Since he arrived at the aquarium, Cruz has been comfortably relying on our animal care team to guide him, demonstrating incredible progress."