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AFTER spending six weeks at uShaka Sea World’s rehabilitation centre, Bay Beauty, the Sub-Antarctic fur seal that washed up on Richards Bay’s Palm Beach, was last week successfully released off Port Elizabeth.
Early on the morning of 24 September, an emaciated, lethargic Bay Beauty (BayB) was spotted by a fisherman, who in turn notified the Meerensee CPF.
One of their members then notified the ZO, who reported the stranding to Jennifer Olbers, a Durban-based Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Marine Biologist, who is also part of the stranding network.
Olbers notified Sea World who immediately mobilised a team which, along with Olbers, arrived in Richards Bay later that morning.
‘Initial assessment on the beach showed she was quite thin, lethargic and non-responsive, and she had a wound on one of her hind flippers,’ said Ann Kunz of the SA Association for Marine Biological Research.
A healthy BayB just before leaving Sea World in Durban to be transported to Bay World in Port Elizabeth where she, with six other Sub-Antarctic fur seals, was released into the Agulhas current
PHOTO: Sea World
‘She responded well to treatment and within a few days she was alert, responsive, swimming and grooming.’
Over the following month, BayB’s weight increased from 33kg to a healthy 51kg, the necessary, substantial weight gain she needed.
The wound on her flipper healed completely and all that was left to determine whether or not she could be released was the veterinarian’s assessment.
‘Blood and faecal samples were taken, her heart and lungs checked, radiographs were carried out and the results all came back positive – she was given the all clear and prepared for release,’ said Kunz.
As Sub-Antarctic fur seals usually breed on islands in the southern ocean, BayB was far from home.
She was driven down to Bay World in Port Elizabeth to join a group of six other Sub-Antarctic fur seals to be released from a vessel owned by the SA Environmental Observer Network (SAEON) and the SA Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB).
Before release, each seal was fitted with a flipper tag, so they can be easily identified by scientists who work with Sub-Antarctic seals on the islands in the southern ocean.