Townsend is a juvenile male harbor seal, named after NMLC co-founder Townsend Hornor, that was the first patient admitted to our new marine animal hospital just over a year ago. You may have read about him in previous website posts (Arrival, Detection of Ear Infection, CT Scans at WHOI, Seeking a Satellite Tag, Final Diagnostic Tests).
To recap, a few days after Townsend arrived, we noticed a whitish discharge coming from his left ear. After a multitude of diagnostic tests including CT, we determined he was suffering from a very severe middle ear infection. Sadly, the infection didn’t respond to medicine and surgery was required. Townsend underwent two surgeries to remove the infection. Surgeries in marine mammals are dangerous; because of their dive reflex, they do not do well under anesthesia. In Townsend’s case, however, it was the only option. His disease, if left untreated, would eventually cause bone infection, brain infection, and death. We had to try.
Townsend showed his fighting spirit, making it through the surgeries and subsequent weeks of treatment and recovery. After 7 1/2 months of rehabilitation, he was ready to be released.
Townsend was fitted with a satellite tag so we could track his progress. Then on June 27, to the cheers of hundreds of people, Townsend raced into the waves of Scusset Beach and swam away, He was home.
Tracking data showed that Townsend stayed near Cape Cod for a couple days, then headed north of Boston where he spent the summer. Signals from the tag indicated he was diving and swimming normally. A success!
But Townsend’s story is more than the story of one animal. He exemplifies the National Marine Life Center’s mission of rehabilitation, science, and education. In helping this one animal, we learned more about a serious disease in seals and how to treat it. And, the more we learn about Townsend’s disease, the closer we get to finding out its cause. Wildlife health, environmental health, and human health are related, so the more we learn about what impacts animals the more we learn about what can also impact people. We’re all connected.
Townsend further inspires countless young people. Whether they participated in one of the National Marine Life Center’s education programs, visited during an open house, saw him on our web cam, or followed his satellite track, people young and old, near and far empathized with Townsend and delighted in his progress. He demonstrates the importance of a healthy ocean ecosystem for animals and people alike. He shows that we’re all connected.
Your year-end, tax deductible donation will ensure the National Marine Life Center stays open to help the next animal, to study the next disease, to inspire the next student. There’s still time to help. Donate securely on-line at www.nmlc.org.
Only with your help can the National Marine Life Center continue to rehabilitate sick and injured seals and sea turtles, advance marine science, and inspire our youth to become stewards of the ocean environment upon which we all depend. Please, make your tax deductible, year end donation now. Your participation matters!
Post Script: Townsend’s story was only possible with the help of hundreds of people. Marine Mammals of Maine rescued him, the University of New England Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Conservation Program provided initial care, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Computerized Scanning and Imaging facility graciously conducted three CT scans and a specialized hearing test, the Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists generously donated two surgeries, Wildlife Computers generously donated a satellite tag, numerous individual donors contributed money and supplies, volunteers gave their time, and YOU. Thank you.