By Ann Kunz
Simba was only a yearling (between 1 and 2 years old) when he was found stranded at the Sunday’s River Mouth and taken to Bayworld in Port Elizabeth. He appeared to be in relatively good health and weighed 10.6kgs which was only slightly below average for his age and size. He seemed unusually comfortable in his strange new home and even started eating the pilchards offered to him without reservation. He was treated for worms and as he showed no other signs of needing human care, was re-introduced to the Black Rocks seal colony in Algoa Bay after spending two days at Bayworld.
Prior to his re-introduction he was fitted with tags on both fore flippers. Two days later, a report came in that a young seal with flipper tags was spotted on the Sundays River but this time the seal was seen climbing into a recreational fisherman’s boat helping himself to baitfish. It was Simba. He was taken back to Bayworld as there were concerns that he had ingested small fishing hooks. Fortunately, his radiographs showed no evidence of fish hooks.
In the ensuing discussions with residents in the town of Colchester, (which is situated on the Sunday’s River) it was learned that Simba was well known to the locals. He had apparently arrived in poor condition and had been offered fish by fishermen. He had been fed bait fish and actively encouraged to climb onto boats. There is a short video clip showing him being fed Vienna sausages.
It was clear that he had become habituated to humans and was dependent on humans for nourishment. This habituation puts wild seals in a vulnerable position.
The decision was made to keep him at Bayworld and try to wean him off human habituation by encouraging him to feed in the water. Unfortunately, this did not elicit the required outcome. When all attempts at rehabilitation and preparation for release failed, they had to concede that Simba was an un-releasable seal.
uShaka Sea World staff were contacted and asked whether we had the capacity to offer Simba a permanent home. As we are fortunate enough to have excellent resident seal facilities we said yes and looked forward to welcoming Simba into our resident seal family.
He is settling down well and the staff (who are totally charmed by him) are steadily building a foundation of trust before they can proceed with his health checks and begin introducing him to the other seals in the colony. He is a confident and curious little character and is learning very quickly.