Pup’s trip home all sealed

Barbara Hollands

A FEISTY seal pup which was washed off Bird Island in heavy swells and turned up on Hamburg beach on Monday is set to be reunited with its mother today.

The seal’s rescue mission began yesterday when the East London Aquarium posted an appeal via local not-for-profit organisation Crime Spotter Buffalo City to find transport for the little passenger back to Port Elizabeth, so that it could board a special Bird Island- bound boat which was scheduled to leave for the island at 5am today.

While heaps of offers to drive the pup to Port Elizabeth poured in, courier company Berco Express volunteered to transport the seal immediately.

“It is wonderful that they made a special trip to help,” East London Aquarium superintendent Stephen Rheeder said, adding that the pup was given antibiotics and was tube-fed ahead of his road trip yesterday.

The seal, which at between five and six weeks old is still suckling, was one of 23 washed off Black Rock in the Bird Island group of islands during extremely heavy swells over last weekend and rescued by Port Elizabeth’s Bayworld and the South African National Parks (SANParks).

“More of these seals have been washing up along the Eastern Cape coastline and Bayworld has organised a boat to take them back to the island,” Rheeder said.

According to East London Aquarium seal trainer Tim Freshwater, the baby was “in good nick” with lots of energy and has a good chance of survival, provided it gets back to its mother in good time.

He said the baby’s mom should recognise it by its individual call.

It was possible more seal pups would be found along the province’s shoreline in the next couple of days, he said, urging the public to call either the East London Aquarium at 043-7052637 or Bayworld at 041- 5840650.

Berco Express sales rep Joanne Ehlers said she was thrilled to play a part in the pup’s rehabilitation.

“As soon as we saw the appeal on Crime Spotter we ran to the branch manager to ask if we could make a special trip to take the seal to PE and he said: ‘Do it’.

“It is such a privilege and so exciting to be able to help.”

Bayworld marine mammal biologist Greg Hofmeyr said the seals were still too young to swim properly.

“These seals are only a few weeks old and as a result they still cannot swim properly. They are safe and in good condition as we are taking good care of them,” he said. – Additional reporting by Yoliswa Sobuwa

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