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Sgt. Nevis Undergoes First-of-its-Kind Reconstructive Surgery to Close Gunshot Wounds on His Face

As originally published by The Marine Mammal Center

On October 8, 2010, Sgt. Nevis, the California sea lion that was seriously injured when he was allegedly shot by a fisherman in the Sacramento River, had major reconstructive surgery at Six Flags in Vallejo to close the gunshot wound on his face. Washington D.C. facial reconstruction surgeon Dr. Praful Ramineni flew out to perform this delicate surgery. Dr. Ramineni was supported by Center's veterinarians Dr. Bill Van Bonn and Dr. Vanessa Fravel as well as veterinarians Dr. Diana Procter and Dr. Nancy Anderson from Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The complicated surgery was needed to cover the open, crater-like wound under his eyes. The extent of the gunshot injury had forced Sgt. Nevis to modify his breathing. He was unable to dive or put his head under water, and he was at risk for infection. Equally important, because it was human interference that caused the marine mammal's injury, Center and Six Flags staff felt a strong need to correct the situation as much as possible. Dr. Ramineni generously agreed to donate his services in support of this amazing effort.

Once Sgt. Nevis was sedated and positioned for surgery, the surgeons covered the wound by loosening skin on his forehead, then rotating and stretching it to cover the wound. The nearly two-hour-long procedure required anesthesia of the almost 700 pound animal. Once the surgery was completed, the crowd of veterinarians watched intensely waiting for the sea lion to "wake up." After a bit, everyone breathed a sigh of relief as he began to lift his head and look around at his surroundings. Within the hour, he was even eating a few fish!

Sgt. Nevis will spend a few days in dry recovery in the Six Flags' Vet Clinic air-conditioned quarantine room before being moved back to his relatively new home at the Seal Cove exhibit. Since his arrival at Seal Cove, he has quickly become a favorite amongst park staff. He's repeatedly described as gentle, patient, smart and quick to learn. He's picked up on basic behavioral trainings such as allowing trainers to touch him and getting used to people moving around him. Sgt. Nevis also has adapted well to being with the other animals in the exhibit. In fact, he already has a special spot on the "beach" section of the exhibit - right next to the young female sea lions Ella and Indigo!

In an update published by CBS San Francisco, Sgt. Nevis was reported to have sired a pup.


Paul G. Ruff IV
M.D., F.A.C.S.

Personalized, compassionate patient care is the foundation of West End Plastic Surgery's philosophy. Our board-certified surgeon, Dr. Paul G. Ruff IV embraces innovative techniques to ensure our patients get the best treatments available.

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