Coast KZN

20 Apr 2021

KZN conservationists nurse ailing elephant seal back to good health

Jehran Daniel (IOL: Africa News Agency) Picture: SAAMBR. Previously ailing southern elephant seal Dobby is back in good health after the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (Saambr) put him on a feeding regime.

DURBAN – A team from the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) in Durban has successfully nursed a southern elephant seal back to good health. The seal, named Dobby, was found on Garvies beach in the Bluff in February, SAAMBR said in a statement on Tuesday. When the locals found him beached, he weighed in at just under 71 kilograms, but has in less than two months gained 40 kilograms.

“He is now eating 15 kilograms of fish a day which is divided between three feeds. He has a healthy appetite and rather than chewing his food he sucks it up like a vacuum cleaner,” said SAAMBR.

“His least favourite food is squid and cuttlefish and his favourite food is everything else he is offered.”

Elephant seals are native to the waters of the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic oceans.

With a current weight of around 110 kilograms, Dobby who is presently housed at a rehabilitation facility at Ushaka Marine World, has another 50 kilograms to gain before reaching his goal weight. If all goes to plan, he could be released back into the wild in about two months.

When he arrived at the rehabilitation centre, the seal was critically ill, with lacerations acquired along the way to the South African coastline. He was also undergoing the painful process of molting, whereby seals shed a layer of skin and fur.

“He spent the first week in rehab lying with his back turned away from us trying to be as innocuous as possible. Although it is normal for stranded seals to take a while to adjust to their new surroundings, Dobby took longer than most seals,” SAAMBR said.

This anti-social behaviour could partly have been due to the fact that Dobby was sharing a pool with another seal named Ragnar, who has since been released back into the wild, leaving the former the centre of attention.

“Staff arriving at work in the car park are greeted by Dobby’s bellows for their attention. His demanding bellows can be heard 100 meters from the rehabilitation facility and no-one can concentrate until his demands have been met,” SAAMBR said.