On Monday 27 September we received news from Mduduzi Seakamela, a Marine Mammal Biologist from DFFE, that a tagged southern elephant seal had come ashore in False Bay in the Western Cape. The seal which had a yellow tag on its hind flipper, was soon identified as Dobby ! Even better news is that Dobby is looking fat and healthy.
Dobby was found on Garvies Beach on the Bluff in Durban in February 2021 and underwent four months of rehabilitation in our uShaka Sea World Rehabilitation Centre regaining his strength and increasing his fat reserves.
On 8th June 2021 MACS Maritime Carrier Shipping (Pty) Ltd and the crew from the cargo ship M/V Golden Karoo assisted us in releasing Dobby far offshore into the Agulhas current to help him on his journey southward.
We are uncertain as to where Dobby has been for the past four months as he was not fitted with a satellite tag prior to release. We, along with Greg Hofmeyr, a Marine Mammal Biologist at the Bayworld Museum Marine Mammals
in Port Elizabeth speculate that Dobby has been cruising around the Southern Ocean and returned to our shores to complete his annual winter moult.
For the annual moult, southern elephant seals haul out onto land for about a month. During this time, they don’t eat or swim, living off their abundant fat reserves while they shed their old fur coat to reveal a shiny, perfect new coat beneath.
There are a few documented southern elephant seals that return to South African beaches year after year to moult. These seals are protected to ensure that they can rest without harassment.
An excerpt from the Marine Living Resources Act states, “No person shall, except on the authority of a permit: kill, or attempt to kill, fish for or harass; feed, keep or control; be in possession of any part of, or a product made from; dolphins, whales, turtles, whale sharks, penguins and seals.”
Perhaps Dobby will also become a welcome, regular and safe visitor to South Africa?