Life-sized southern elephant seal model a welcome addition

Visitors to uShaka Sea World, Rebecca Foxon and Kayleigh Hollyman, pose with a life-sized model of a southern elephant seal 

An enormous model of an elephant seal along with a smaller seal species replica are welcome additions to the growing number of photo opportunity models situated throughout uShaka Marine World.

The large, wall-mounted life-sized model was inspired by Selso the southern elephant seal who has been a resident in the uShaka Sea World Rehabilitation Centre since he was found stranded on a beach on the KwaZulu-Natal lower south coast at the end of June 2013.

Joining him adjacent to the seal exhibit window is a very serious-looking seal 'studying' a SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) information chart.

Both seals present irresistible opportunities for group and individual family photographs and although they have only been up for a few days, are proving to be as popular as the two dolphin models and the much photographed megalodon jaw at the entrance to the park.

It is hoped that the southern elephant seal and SASSI seal models will inspire guests to find out more about the seals that inhabit the oceans and what action they can take to contribute positively towards a healthy marine environment that will ensure their survival.

Both the southern and northern mature male elephant seals are easily recognisable by their enormous size and proboscis. Male southern elephant seals weigh approximately 3 500kg while the female’s maximum weight is around 600kg.

Their eyes are large, round and black with a high concentration of pigment which suggest that sight plays an important role in the capture of prey.

SASSI the seal is smothered in kisses

While hunting they are able to remain at depths of 400 to 1 000 metres for more than 20 minutes at a time. This unique skill is based on their ability to store oxygen and to reduce oxygen consumption.

Thankfully most of their breeding sites are now protected by international law after their near-extinction due to hunting in the 19th century.

SASSI the seal has an important message for all of us. We can all play a part in creating a sustainable seafood industry as it is well known that the ocean is not a bottomless resource.

uShaka Sea World is a partner in the SASSI initiative established in 2004 by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Sue Hollyman gets help in making the right seafood choice from SASSI the seal

While sitting with SASSI the seal, visitors are drawn to reading the giant menu which clearly indicates the different fish species according to their conservation status.

The green group lists the most sustainable choices while those in the orange group include species that consumers are encouraged to think twice before choosing to eat.

Red indicates species from collapsed populations. Consumers are urged to never consume fish from the red list, not only because it is illegal, but because if left alone, these fish species may recover over time.

This is a lot of information to take in all in one sitting, so a quick QR code is provided to link guests to the SASSI app which can be downloaded free on to mobile devices.

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