Thanks to 9-year-old Alana Thogerson, many sea lion babies have full bellies right now.
The plucky Virginia girl has raised more than $1,600 to feed thousands of starving and stranded sea lions who’ve been popping up along beaches in Southern California.
According to The Orange County Register, Thogerson’s fundraising efforts began this past winter when she learned of the sea mammal’s plight and started selling odds and ends in the driveway of her Reston, Virginia, home. Stickers, toys and necklaces – and photos of the family’s Chihuahua – helped her rake in $22 to donate to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California.
But it didn’t stop there. Inspired by their daughter’s passion to save the creatures, her parents set up a GoFundMe account, which raised more than $1,600. On Monday, Thogerson presented what she called a “big fat check” to the center.
“Everyone here thanks you so much, including the sea lions,” Mary Beth Steen, director of development for the center, told the Register. “We really need it. Every dollar buys a pound of fish.”
According to TIME, rising ocean temperatures are the reason sea lion pups are in trouble. The warm temperatures are affecting the core diet of sea lions, perhaps driving their prey deeper into the water or farther offshore. With less frequent nursing from their mothers, experts suspect that these weak, under-grown animals are being driven to look for food on their own before they are ready.
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The funds Thogerson raised will also be used for medical supplies to treat the hundreds of sea lions rescued by center staff since this epidemic began along the Orange County coastline in December, the report said.