Cool deal for lost seal

Bay­world, Dur­ban marine cen­tre say goodbye to spe­cial guests

The Herald (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - Ri­aan Marais maraisr@times­me­dia.co.za

IT was a bit­ter­sweet day for Bay­world and Dur­ban’s uShaka Marine World as they re­leased two seals into the ocean just out­side Al­goa Bay yes­ter­day af­ter months of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

The day was also his­toric as Bear – an adult male Antarc­tic fur seal that was re­leased – is said to be the first of his kind to be found on South Africa’s shores, about 6 000km from his usual habi­tat.

uShaka mam­mal and bird be­haviourist Hay­ley Ten­nant said there was no clear ex­pla­na­tion for Bear’s pres­ence so far from home.

“We re­ceived a call in June that a seal had washed up at Port Ed­ward,” Ten­nant said.

“When we found him, he was quite lethar­gic and thin. It was only once we brought him to uShaka that we re­alised ex­actly what we had found.”

Antarc­tic fur seals grow to about 200kg and only oc­cur in colder wa­ters around the south­ern­most land masses in the world.

When Bear was found, he weighed only 70kg.

“One the­ory for his pres­ence re­volves around cli­mate change and the mi­gra­tion of fish he would nor­mally feed on,” Ten­nant said.

“He could have fol­lowed his food and gone way off course, even­tu­ally wash­ing up in KwaZulu-Natal.”

Due to uShaka’s long­stand­ing re­la­tion­ship with Bay­world, Bear was brought in a van to Port El­iz­a­beth on Tues­day. It then took half a dozen peo­ple to load his spe­cially de­signed crate onto a boat at the Port El­iz­a­beth Deep Sea Angling Club.

He was taken about 65km south and re­leased into a strong cur­rent that could speed up his jour­ney home.

Along­side Bear, the Bay­world team re­leased Clarence, a young male sub-Antarc­tic fur seal that washed up at Cape Re­ceife in Septem­ber.

While sub-Antarc­tic fur seals nor­mally oc­cur south­east of South Africa, in the re­gion of Mar­ion Is­land, they are not un­com­mon around lo­cal shores, and also grow to about 200kg.

On his re­lease Clarence was well un­der that weight, in­di­cat­ing he was still young.

Bay­world marine mam­mals and seabirds spe­cial­ist Cherie Lawrence said that, when found, Clarence had cuts on his neck and face, pos­si­bly caused by be­ing washed against rocks.

“He was also very thin and a lit­tle de­hy­drated.

“We had a lot of fun work­ing with Clarence, and re­leas­ing an­i­mals back into the ocean is al­ways a lit­tle bit­ter­sweet for us.

“We be­come at­tached to them, but we know our end goal is their safe re­turn to the wild,” Lawrence said.

SAD EYES: Bear the seal gets ready to say goodbye to his res­cuers

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