Group effort gives seal a second chance

Herald Reporter

A 22-MONTH-OLD southern elephant seal that underwent rehabilitation at uShaka Marine World in Durban was released into the ocean off Port Elizabeth six months after it was found stranded on a beach in Kwazulu-Natal.

Selso was aboard the MSC cruise liner Sinfonia, which left Durban on January 9 and docked in the city on Saturday. Originally from sub-Antarctic regions, the underweight elephant seal underwent a long rehabilitation after he washed up in KZN.

In August last year, Bayworld’s Greg Hofmeyer, Oceans & Coasts’ Mike Meyer and the University of Pretoria’s Nico de Bryn, all of whom have vast experience in marine mammal management and elephant seals, met with South African Association for Marine Biological Research (Saambr) chief executive Judy Mann and the uShaka Sea World veterinary and animal care team to discuss the best way forward for Selso. It was then decided Selso’s best option would be release once he had reached a weight of 180kg and completed his annual moult.

Selso recently reached both milestones. For the two-day cruise down the coast he was lifted in a crate onto the foredeck and secured under cover. He was released off Port Elizabeth on Saturday at 7pm, 25 nautical miles off the coast. He was fitted with a satellite tag which will allow scientists from Oceans & Coasts to monitor his whereabouts for up to a year.

Mann said the seal had been given so much attention because “at Saambr we believe conservation can be achieved in many different ways. As an organisation that cares for the environment, we also care about individuals. Although elephant seals are not endangered, we had the opportunity to save an individual and, in the process, learn more about the species, which could contribute towards the conservation of the species in the future.

“Selso has won people’s hearts and hopefully helped to highlight the fact that, no matter where you live, we are all connected to the web of life.”

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