Sub-Antarctic seal saved in the nick of time

  • 04 October 2013 | Ann Kunz

Animal behaviourist Nikhiel Singh feeds Minion

Word must be getting around among the local seal population about uShaka Sea World’s outstanding rehabilitation facilities, with yet another seal arriving at the facility in the past week in dire straits.

This time it was a young male sub-Antarctic fur seal rescued by KZN Wildlife staff on a Port Edward beach, a long way from his home off Marion Island, which lies 1920km southeast of Cape Town.

The seal was underweight and had sustained injuries to its flipper and lower back, possibly as a result of a shark bite.

When he arrived on 28 September 2013 at uShaka Sea World, the seal was given intravenous fluids and his wounds were treated with topical antibiotics.

For three days the seal’s fate hung in the balance as he was dehydrated and weak. However, he soon turned the corner and has perked up considerably and gained about 5kg, largely due to “eating up a storm”, according to his carers.

The seal has been named Minion because he is tiny compared to southern elephant seal Selso – also in rehabilitation – and resident Cape fur seals, or southern fur seals, as they are now called.

Minion the sub-Antarctic seal

Selso the southern elephant seal

Minion is being fed on pilchards, hake and cuttlefish to fatten him up. He also received gelatine to boost his fluid intake, and early blood test results are good.

Once both seals have gained sufficient weight, uShaka Sea World plans to release Minion and Selso together along the continental shelf off Port Elizabeth, which is their natural feeding ground.

Selso currently weighs 163kg, but needs to reach his goal weight of 180kg before being deemed ready for release, while Minion has quite a bit of eating to do before he’s strong enough to survive in the wild.

Each year between 10 and 20 sub-Antarctic fur seals come to rest on KwaZulu-Natal beaches between June and August before heading off on their long journey home. Seals that arrive at public beaches are usually relocated to a quieter spot to rest and recuperate under expert care.

Minion’s discovery is unusual so late in the year, but fortunately he received the necessary treatment and care that will see him set off soon with another chance at life.

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