Selso the seal’s new battle is a weighty one

2013-08-28 00:00

SELSO the southern elephant seal survived being stranded and was reportedly plucked back from the brink of death. Now his next battle is a weighty one — he needs to reach 180 kg before he can be allowed to leave his temporary home at uShaka Sea World for release into the Agulhas current.

When Selso was found on June 28 by members of the public on a beach in the lower South Coast, he was in a bad state, said uShaka spokesperson Ann Kuntz.

“Staff at uShaka Sea World fetched the young seal and fell immediately in love — his eyes stole their hearts,” she recalled.

“He was in a bad state, and we honestly did not think he would make it. Now I think we have a world first, successfully treating this seal. We were delighted when the experts told us there is a possibility that he is almost well enough to be released.”

Although arctic seals are a common sight here, the southern elephant seal is a rare sight, their natural habitat being Marion Island.

To help him get to the required weight, Selso has to gobble up a 12 kg seafood cocktail of squid, hake and pilchards, all conveniently prepared for him and divided into four portions so he can have enough nibbles during the day.

Initially Selso was treated with antibiotics, vitamins and specially prepared fish. He has a private area in the rehabilitation centre where he can rest, swim and put on weight.

Last week Mike Meyer from Oceans and Coasts (Department of Environmental Affairs), Nico de Bryn (University of Pretoria) and Greg Hofmeyr (BayWorld), all whom have vast experience in marine mammal management and elephant seals, met with Marine Biological Research Association CEO Judy Mann and the uShaka Sea World veterinary and animal care team to discuss Selso’s future. They concurred that the best option for the seal was to be released when he achieved the right weight.

According to Kuntz, Selso will be tagged with a satellite tag that will transmit daily data on exactly where he is, and what he is doing.

Due to his compromised condition when he was stranded on a beach on the lower South Coast, uShaka Sea World staff estimated his age at about seven months.

However, De Bryn, who has considerable experience working with elephant seals in the Southern Oceans, confirmed Selso to be about 22 months old, He therefore should currently weigh about 180 to 200 kg.

Southern elephant seals live in sub-Antarctic and Arctic waters and are the largest of all the seals — the males weighing over 400 kg and the females around 380 kg.

Selso weighed about 70 kg when found, now he is pulling his weight at 130 kg.

• If you notice a stranded marine animal, contact 031 328 8222 – this number is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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