Selso the lost seal fit, fat and back at home

2014-07-10 00:00

PORT ELIZABETH — Fat and healthy.

That’s how lost elephant seal Selso, who washed up in KwaZulu-Natal last June, arrived at his true home of Marion Island this year after an 8 000 trip.

When Selso was found at South­broom on the South Coast, he weighed just 70 kg. After six months of rehabilitation at uShaka Marine World in Durban, he weighed a full 200 kg and was ready to attempt the migration to the sub-Antarctic island.

He was taken on the cruise ship MSC Sinfonia to Port Elizabeth, where the colder water of Algoa Bay was more suitable for his release back to the sea.

Before Selso’s release, a satellite transmitter was fixed to his head so his journey could be tracked.

Now, after 169 days and a rather roundabout 8 000 km trip, Selso has been seen on Marion Island, where South Africa has a research base.

“The researchers on the island have seen Selso and say he looks fit and well, and fat,” said Bayworld marine biologist Dr Greg Hofmeyr.

He has been following the weekly ­reports from Selso’s transmitter with interest. “The good news is that Selso didn’t just go straight to Marion Island [2 200 km from PE], but made a wide detour and still survived,” Hofmeyr said.

According to the satellite records, Selso first visited the Antarctic ice shelf before turning back north.

“The report indicates that Selso crossed one area several times, probably because there was a dense chokka population there on which he fed,” said Hofmeyr.

The satellite shows that Selso has once again taken to the sea, but Hofmeyr says he hopes the seal will return to Marion when he is moulting, because that is a vulnerable time for any marine animal.

“And maybe he would shuck off the R16 000 transmitter, so we could re-use it for another project,” Hofmeyr added.

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