Sea lions find new home in Florida Keys

Over 1,000 sea lions orphaned this year

KEY LARGO, Fla. - Two young orphaned California sea lions are getting acclimated to their new home in the Florida Keys.

Monday marked the first time officials at Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Research and Education Center could handfeed the 75-pound youngsters that are less than a year old. The animals arrived in Key Largo, via a FedEx cargo flight, late Saturday night.

Marine mammal experts said California stranding centers usually have 40 orphaned sea lion pups between January and April annually. In the spring of 2013, they were overwhelmed, caring for more than 1,000 sea lion pups found severely malnourished. Seeking permanent homes, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration solicited licensed marine mammal centers.

A Dolphins Plus animal specialist and veterinarian traveled to Vallejo, Calif., to escort them to Key Largo.

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