Coast KZN

18 Feb 2021

Dobby the seal makes a speedy recovery and a new friend

Nothando Mthembu (Southlands Sun) Picture: Dobby the elephant seal

The Bluff had an unexpected visitor recently when an elephant seal washed ashore on Garvies Beach on Friday, 12 February. The South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) was alerted and attended to the semiaquatic marine mammal.

“Our first thoughts were bewilderment at the arrival of yet another Antarctic seal visitor so close to Ragnar’s arrival (another recently rescued seal). Then to more practical thoughts as to how to relocate a 130 kilogram seal from Garvies Beach to uShaka Sea World. Members of the Metro Search and Rescue, SAPS Search and Rescue, National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and eThekwini lifeguards came to the rescue and transported the seal to us,” reads a statement from SAAMBR.

The seal’s arrival caused quite a dilemma as all the available rehabilitation pools were already occupied and personnel at SAAMBR were uncertain whether he would be able to peacefully share Ragnar’s enclosure. He was visually examined in his transport crate and then left to rest and recover while the seal and animal health teams set about researching Antarctic seal behaviour.

“It was clearly evident that he had sustained an injury to the lower jaw which we hoped was merely a superficial laceration. When he looked at the team with his big dark pleading eyes, it seemed appropriate to call him Dobby after the house elf in Harry Potter.

“Over the weekend, upon learning from seal expert, Dr Greg Hofmeyer that it would be in order to place the two Antarctic seals together, we introduced Dobby to Ragnar. It was Ragnar who seemed genuinely pleased at the arrival of a companion. Dobby merely rested on the side of the pool, opened and closed his big eyes and seemed oblivious to Ragnar’s numerous snuggling attempts. They were later seen swimming in the pool together and we knew that all would be well.”

Dobby will have to remain in our care until he has completed his moult (which can last up to four weeks).

According SAAMBR elephant seals don’t usually feed or swim whilst they are moulting and spend the month lying around on the islands sleeping. Dobby spends his days doing just that, sleeping. Being true seals both Dobby and Ragnar have signature big dark eyes and snotty noses and it’s easy to understand how easily they have crept into the hearts of everyone who played, or is currently playing a role in their rescue and rehabilitation.