Agulhus Current Seal Release
By Jake Keeton

Monday, 30th November 2020
We recently had the opportunity to assist Dr Greg Hofmeyr from Bayworld Port Elizabeth with another seal release. This time the seals in question were not from our local colony but rather visitors from the Southern Ocean.
I received a call from Greg and he informed me that they have three seals that stranded on the South African Coast that would need to be released 40 miles South of Cape Recife. The reason for this release location is so that the current can carry them all the way back to the Southern Oceans where they come from. Two of the seals, Peaches and Kuyabanda are Sub-Antarctic fur seals while the third seal, Mikey was an Antarctic fur seal, only the fifth one ever recorded on the South African Coast. A lot of careful planning went into choosing the day for this release as we were experiencing rough sea conditions with changing winds. We knew we would need at least a five hour window to carry out the release successfully. The opportunity finally presented itself, a gap of about five and a half hours before a gale force Westerly was forecast to hit Algoa Bay.
With all the arrangements made we met Greg, Curator Fiona King and student Yvonne Sanders and three eager seals bright and early at the NSRI Jetty in the Port Elizabeth Harbour. This jetty proved to be the fastest and easiest place to load the seals and we found ourselves exiting the harbour in good time. The ride out to the current was a bumpy one. With the wind direction having changed so much over the previous week, blowing strong from the East and then the West the sea did not have a chance to settle properly. None the less it was good enough for us to cruise at a reasonable speed and we arrived at the current line two hours later. Peaches was the first seal to be released. At first she was hesitant to leave the safety of her crate but instinct took over and she leapt into the water and swam off into the current. Kuyabanda was next and needed no encouragement from Greg and his team. Last but not least it was Mikey's turn. Luckily for us Mikey swam around the boat for a few seconds allowing us to capture a picture of him swimming free before he ventured off into the current.
We wish Peaches, Mikey and Kuyabanda the best of luck in their long journey back down South. It is amazing to see animals who were found in very poor condition swimming healthily in the direction of home. We commend Greg and the team from Bayworld PE for their efforts in ensuring that these three seals have a good fighting chance to make it back to the Southern Ocean.
Our Attention is now on the next task at hand. With the rough sea conditions that we experienced last week, Bayworld Oceanarium and Museum currently have 45 Cape fur seal pups that got washed away from our local colony on Black Rocks at Bird Island. Seal pups younger than three months old cannot swim very well and the huge swells and strong winds proved too much for them as they got washed ashore. We are in the process of planning their safe return to the colony during the next suitable gap in the weather. The clock is ticking as these young pups need to be reunited with their mothers as soon as possible to increase the chance that the mother seals will continue to suckle their pups. Keep an eye on our page for updates on this next release.

Agulhus Current Seal Release


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