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Sickly Sea Lion Pup Rescued From The Marine Room

Bernard Guillas

Sea lion pup enjoys the ocean view at The Marine Room, Feb. 4, 2016.

Animal care specialists at SeaWorld San Diego are rehydrating a severely malnourished sea lion pup found curled up in The Marine Room on Thursday.

The animal was spotted on the seat of a dining booth, extremely dehydrated, with its left eye swollen shut.

The female California sea lion pup is 8 months old and weighs 20 pounds. In a news release, the SeaWorld San Diego Rescue Team called it a "micro-pup," meaning its weight is half what it should be.

Executive chef Bernard Guillas said he thinks the sea lion entered the restaurant through the back door, which was left open while staff were cleaning.

"I think when nobody was watching, the little guy came in and said, 'I have a reservation for High Tide Breakfast,'" Guillas said. "But he was three days early."

The restaurant serves High Tide Breakfast on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.

"It was so cute, it was just priceless," he said.

When Guillas saw the sea lion — the first he ever encountered in The Marine Room — he said he thought, "Better call SeaWorld, because I think that little guy wants to take a swim and be back with mom and dad."

SeaWorld San Diego

An animal care specialist at SeaWorld San Diego attempts to restore the health of a rescued sea lion pup, Feb. 4, 2016.

SeaWorld San Diego issued the following statement that may serve as an explanation for the sea lion's trip to the restaurant:

While today’s rescue is somewhat unorthodox, what isn’t surprising is that these young animals are seeking higher, dryer ground. Because of high tides, El Niño and an ongoing Unusual Mortality Event with California sea lions, the marine park is continuing to see a higher-than-normal number of strandings on local beaches, as are other rehabilitation facilities along the California coast. Because the younger animals are finding it difficult to find food, they become emaciated. Their hydration comes from the fish they eat, so when they are malnourished, they then become dehydrated. Dehydration makes it more difficult to regulate their body temperature. This is when they seek food and a warm, dry place.

The company said it was "cautiously optimistic" about the pup's recovery.

The pup was one of 47 marine mammals rescued by SeaWorld San Diego so far this year, 40 of them sea lions. In 2015, the company rescued 1,057 marine mammals, most of which were sea lions.

Late last year, marine mammal rescue officials told KPBS they were expecting a record number of rescues in 2016 as warming waters in the ocean hurt the food supply for sea lions.

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