An Eye on Wildlife

Wildlife Conservation Society Menu
Inspired by a Sea Lion

June 24, 2024

Inspired by a Sea Lion

- as seen by -

Kai Bonacorso Kai Bonacorso

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I had always been fascinated with the wildlife I saw around me. One of my favorite animals was the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus). When I was in college, I learned about a very special sea lion. I had no idea when I first saw his photo how much this marine mammal would change my life.

While working at a local museum, one of my coworkers mentioned a story about a small sea lion pup that had somehow found his way through the busy San Francisco streets and ended up under a parked car in the Marina District. The photos accompanying the online news article captured my heart (above, inset). My coworkers and I refreshed the webpage all day, following up on the sea lion until staff at The Marine Mammal Center were able to come and retrieve him.

This sea lion was, of course, young Townsend. He had been rescued and released once before, but after this second stranding, he was deemed non-releasable. I followed his journey to recovery. One day, it was announced that Townsend would be moving to New York City to become part of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium collection. I was thrilled. I had been planning my own move to New York City after graduation.

My first few years in New York City were certainly interesting, and I’m sure Townsend’s were as well. During that time, I made my way down to the Aquarium whenever I could to catch an Aquatheater show and see if Townsend was one of the featured sea lions that day. I got to know other sea lions in the Aquarium’s population and learned to love watching each and every one of them, but Townsend was always my favorite.

Then one day an internship opened with the Aquarium’s Behavioral Husbandry Department. I applied, and during my interview, I could not help but mention how excited I was for the chance to meet Townsend after following his story for years.

My internship was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I loved getting to know Townsend’s personality. I learned so much from watching his keepers work with him, helping prepare his food every morning, and setting up his enrichment. Townsend was no longer a stranded little pup. He had grown into a confident adult.

My internship ended, and I continued with WCS as a volunteer. I began working with the Aquarium’s education department during the summer. I also got a job taking care of a live reptile collection at a museum, using the skills I learned during my Aquarium internship. I now spend a lot of time educating the public about the importance that animals such as sharks, snakes, and lizards play in our ecosystems.

Sea lion Townsend will never know it, but he is the reason I started this journey. His own journey inspired me and changed my life for the better, and I am forever grateful to him.

Brooklyn, US Map It


Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *