Sea Lion Saved From Santa Barbara Oil Spill Dies, Becomes The Face Of An Environmental Disaster

A sea lion that was rescued from the oil spill in Santa Barbara has died, becoming the face of an environmental disaster.

The sea lion streaked with petroleum from the oil spill became a familiar face in reports of the environmental tragedy on California’s Santa Barbara coastline in recent days.

According to Reuters, the sea lion died Saturday at SeaWorld, where it was being treated for its injuries.

After an underground pipeline burst on Tuesday, more than 2,500 barrels (105,000 gallons) of crude petroleum has spilled onto San Refugio State Beach and into the Pacific Ocean about 20 miles west of Santa Barbara.

The environmental impact has been great with a number of birds and marine animals caught up in the oil. According to the news agency, many have been saved, but a great number have succumbed to the effects of the petroleum.

The male sea lion was found alive on Thursday and was quickly taken to SeaWorld to be taken cared for and cleaned up.

Unfortunately, SeaWorld’s efforts went in vain, and the sea lion died overnight, said Ashley Settle, a spokeswoman of the cleanup and recovery.

SeaWorld spokesman Dave Koontz confirmed the death of the sea lion on Saturday.

“It’s always very saddening to our rescue team when an animal doesn’t make it and often the situation is that the animal is past the point of being able to recover.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, a necropsy will be conducted to determine the cause of the sea lion’s death.

The total death toll on wildlife from the oil spill thus far includes two dead dolphins, five pelicans, and 50 invertebrates.

A second sea lion was found and is currently being cared for at SeaWorld, along with nine pelicans, one western grebe, and a sea elephant.

It is as yet unknown what the full extent of oil spill will be on wildlife, but experts fear it could be great.

The oil spill was the largest to hit the northwest coast of California since 100,000 barrels was released in 1969. That spill killed thousand of sea birds and other wildlife and was key factor in sparking the environmental movement in the United States.

[Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld]