Baby sea lion dies after possible 4,000km wrong turn

Close up of Fox the sea lion, in a garden on Raivavae Island, in a picture published on Facebook on 22 August 2016. Image copyright Tevitau Robson
Image caption It is thought the pup lost its mother, who would normally have kept it swimming the right way

A baby sea lion that turned up in French Polynesia, possibly 4,000km (2,500 miles) from home, has died despite a week-long battle to save it.

"Fox" was found by locals on the tiny Raivavae Island on 20 August. With no vet on the island, the pup was taken to a hospital where it was cared for in a plastic pool.

It was then flown to a clinic in Tahiti the following Monday.

But it's thought it was simply too weak from her ordeal to survive.

Image copyright Tevitau Robson
Image caption Locals rallied round to help the lost and injured sea lion

Sea lions are a very rare sight in the area and no-one knows where Fox came from.

The local view was that New Zealand is the most likely starting point, and that it had travelled on the same currents used by navigators to travel to New Zealand after being separated from its mother.

South America and the Galapagos Islands - also a vast distance away - were other possibilities.

Image copyright Tevitai Robson
Image caption With no vet on Raivavae Island, Fox was initially treated at the local hospital

The sea lion, whose gender was not clear from reports, was first found by one of the 950 residents of Raivavae Island.

Police were called and in the absence of a veterinary clinic, arranged for staff from the local hospital to collect and care for it.

Raivavae resident Tevitau Robson, one of the first people to see the sea lion, told the BBC it had a wound on its right fin.

After unsuccessfully trying to feed it fish, Mr Robson told Tahiti-Infos that a vet they asked for advice "told us to give him a mixture of milk and eggs," though it took some coaxing to get the creature to drink it.

At a little over 8kg (17lbs), far below the right weight for its age, the sea lion was then flown by police to a Tahiti veterinary clinic, about two hours away.

On its Facebook page (in French), the clinic described Fox as "thin and dehydrated", but also warned it remained "a wild animal who has fangs and who can bite without warning".

They said they were giving it minimal human contact so it could eventually be returned to the ocean.

Image copyright Map

The clinic and a local marine mammals association, Mata Tohora, also put out appeals for local fishermen to supply Fox with live octopuses to eat.

But on Tuesday, Mata Tohora said that "despite all the proper care" and medication Fox had died.

They said an autopsy had found it was suffering from peritonitis, an inflammation of the abdomen, which could explain how it had drifted off course.

Local vet Olivier Betremieux told the BBC he "spent 16 hours a day for seven days" battling to save the creature, and was "still sad" about its demise.

"Wildlife saving can be tricky and this little guy was found almost at the end of his road," he added.

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