Where is Gru the sub-Antarctic seal heading?

Gru, an adult sub-Antarctic fur seal, was brought into uShaka Sea World on Saturday 26 April by staff from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, after stranding on a beach between Banana Beach and Hibberdene on the lower South Coast.

uShaka Sea World staff Caryl Knox, Craig Bristow, Mhlaba Mtetwa, Bilal Limbada and Rob Kyle at gru's release

Gru was desperately thin, and had injuries to his flippers and an infected left eye.

He was immediately put on a ringers subcutaneous drip to assist rehydration, and hosed down frequently to bring his temperature down.

He was started on a course of antibiotics and kept separate from other animals in a quiet enclosure, which afforded him the opportunity to rest as much as possible. This seemed to work well, as he regained his strength and started eating fish after only a week in rehabilitation.

Once he started eating, he eagerly looked forward to feeding times, which saw him polish off six kilograms of fish a day, divided into three feeds.

The fish he was offered was laced with vitamins and other essential minerals to aid his recovery.

It became apparent after a month in rehabilitation that he was ready for release, and plans began.

Mike Meyer, of Oceans and Coasts, flew to Durban to secure a satellite tag to his back so that we could receive information on his movements post-release.

Gru continued to eagerly consume every morsel of fish offered to him and gained more than 20kg in the six weeks he was at uShaka Sea World. He certainly was ready to go back to the ocean and begin hunting again.

Early on Thursday 12 June, he was encouraged into a crate and loaded onto a bakkie for the short drive to the Ski Boat Club in Durban.

Gru's release was smooth and he swam off  without a backward glance

At the club he was loaded onto a rubber duck, and taken 10 nautical miles out to sea. Gru was not the only discharged patient on the boat, as a gannet that had also spent time in the rehabilitation centre was released from the boat a short distance from shore.

The release was just like everything that happened around Gru – smooth, without fuss and uncomplicated.

After the crate door was lifted, Gru leaned forward and peered into the water for a second, before diving in without a backward glance.

The staff were visibly overjoyed and followed his movements in the water for a minute or two while he remained close to the surface, and then like all fit seals should, he dived and was not seen again.

We will start receiving satellite information in a few days and we hope that Gru will not head north but south, either along the coast or straight down towards Marion Island.

Until today there was no way of knowing where a seal went after he left the shores of KwaZulu-Natal.

Gru’s journey will be followed with great interest, and we will keep you informed.

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