Stranded, rare Antarctic seal treated at Bayworld

2018-10-10 06:00

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AN Antarctic fur seal has made its way to the shores of Port Elizabeth after travelling as far as 8 000km away from its home before ending up stranded.

As the third member of its species to land on the African continent this year, the sea creature has found a new home at Bayworld and is currently being rehabilitated before it can be released back into the sea.

The seal, named Herold, has been stranded in Herold’s Bay where the local Stranded Marine Animal Rescue team came to his rescue after it was found in critical condition and would have died without human intervention.

“Herold has been shuttled to Bayworld and we gave him that name because he was stranded in Herold’s Bay at first. We took him through to our rehabilitation programme to treat him to become healthy,” said Greg Hofmeyr, a marine biologist and seal specialist at Bayworld.

Herold suffered severe dehydration and was given fluids and fed fish gruel and vitamin additives to regain his strength. However, he is now taking solid fish.

“A thorough examination of the animal is done to determine the problem. We then rehabilitate them and make sure they are healthy enough to be released back into the sea. We have a rehabilitation programme at Bayworld. Sometimes these animals end up on the beach and they might be injured and the public usually phones us,” Hofmeyr said.

The Antarctic fur seals are found in the Southern Ocean, which is close to Antarctica.

The reason for Antarctic seals travelling to the South African shores remains unknown.

“This year we had three coming ashore. They are very unusual animals. We don’t know why they come to this side of the ocean.

“It’s possibly exploratory behaviour because it’s usually the younger ones that we rehabilitate. However, these seals cannot stay here permanently due to the climate change,” Hofmeyr said.

Bayworld is currently rehabilitating two sub-Antarctic fur seals, which are due to be released at the end of October.

”We do get seals in from time to time, but especially during the winter.

“There are a number of species of seals that come ashore along the South African coast. They consist of the Cape fur seals, which are the local species,” Hofmeyr added.

The seals are released with satellite tags attached to them, which allow Hofmeyr to track the seals to ensure a safe and successful arrival in Antarctica.

“We usually release the animals with satellite tags, but the tags are very expensive.

“We do have other tags available as well and put them on the local sea creatures when we release them. This allows us to identify these animals if they return to our shores again,” Hofmeyr said.

Herold will be released back into the sea in a few months with the assistance of the Bayworld staff.

“What happens next is that we will take him out to sea, once he is healthy enough.

“We take him on a boat about 60km into the sea. We will then drop him into the water of the Agulhas Current off Cape Recife.

“We don’t want to drop him near the shore as he might swim back. This will act as a fast-moving conveyer as it carries him southwards,” Hofmeyr said.

Bayworld has since been successful in the release of many sea creatures and released a seal on Saturday, October 6, that had made a full recovery.

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