Food Chain




The El Niño event for the 1997/1998 year has been predicted by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to be much stronger than the event that occurred in 1982/83. As indicated by the stranding data from the previous years, the numbers of animals that strand during these events increases tremendously. NMFS has told all stranding centers to expect huge numbers of animals. The Fort MacArthur Center was told that more than 900 animals could be brought to the Center if a major event occurred. Many other animals would probably strand and not be brought to the Center due to lack of space. In a normal year, the Center handles 150-200 animals. It receives no public funds to operate the program and must rely on private donations. The Center can comfortably hold 50 animals. More than that, conditions become overcrowded and the quality of care diminishes. (Compare this to a classroom with 20 students or one with 45.) The approximate cost to rehabilitate one animal is approximately $1500. Large adult animals need more space and cost more to house and feed. On the other hand, they usually eat by themselves very quickly and do not need the intensive care necessary for the young. They usually stay much less time. Very young animals are labor intensive. Feeding 20-30 neonates is a grueling 18 hour per day ordeal for trained volunteers. Very young animals often need longer periods of rehabilitation. Animals held too long run the risk of becoming habituated to humans and look to humans as a source of food.


Based on the above, discuss the following:

  • What should be done if the number of animals stranding exceeds the capacity of the facility?
  • During a severe El Niño what should be the release condition of rehabed animals?
  • If conditions in the ocean have triggered the strandings, should the animals be returned to the sea or held until things are better?
  • Should the health of animals in the Center be compromised by crowding in too many animals when there are animals on the beach that need care also?
  • What happens when funds run out?
  • What should be done with animals stranded on the beach for which there is no room?
  • What should be done with the public who will want to help and are legally restrained from doing so?
  • Should the 24-48 hour watch be lengthened if the system continues to be taxed? What should determine whether the watch is continued or discontinued?
  • Where should animals be released? Should they be transported to ocean areas that are in better health than the area from which they stranded?
  • Are there other issues that need to be raised at this time?

    At first young animals must be given gruel---milk mixed with raw fish. They are then given small fish


    Volunteers at first assist the animals in eating.

    Then they learn to eat for themselves.

    When they have gained weight, they are released into the ocean.