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MOSSEL BAY NEWS AND VIDEO - A seal caused quite a stir at Suiderkruis Beach in Groot Brak last week, where it seemed to have spent a "long weekend" before returning to sea four days later.
The male sub-antarctic fur seal, named Francis during his stay, was monitored and guarded by volunteers from the Stranded Marine Animal Rescue Team (S.M.A.R.T.) until he left the shore on Sunday.
A member of the Great Brak Conservancy spotted the seal first and alerted S.M.A.R.T.
The conservancy member, who prefers to remain anonymous, told the Mossel Bay Advertiser how distraught she was at witnessing people on the beach harassing the seal. She said she reported them to the authorities and stayed with the seal until S.M.A.R.T. arrived.
Photographs of the seal were sent to seal expert Dr Greg Hofmeyr at Bayworld in Nelson Mandela Bay, who confirmed the visitor was a male sub-antarctic fur seal.
These seals are mainly found in the southern parts of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
When seen in South African waters, it is considered unusual.
Watch 2 videos below:
Video: Tersia Marais
Smaller than the more well-known Cape fur seals, sub-antarctic fur seal males grow to two metres, weighing about 160kg. They have a characteristic pale facial mask that distinguishes them from all other fur seals.
During the 19th century, they were hunted almost to extinction for their fur. All colonies are now protected and they have begun colonising new locations, positively impacting their growth rates.
According to Val Marsh from S.M.A.R.T., the seal was named Francis by the conservancy member who found him, in honour of St Francis, patron saint of animals and ecology.
More photos sent to Dr Hofmeyr confirmed Francis was moulting. These seals moult annually and during this time don't feed much, but need much rest.
"On Saturday afternoon at 15:38 Francis got up, turned to look at the ocean and decided it was time to leave.
"His departure was recorded and when he got out beyond the waves, it was as if he gave a flipper wave to say 'bye and thanks for keeping me safe'.
"He may be back, or we may never see him again, but wherever his travels take him, we wish him a safe journey. During his stay we were able to inform and educate many people, which is part of S.M.A.R.T.'s mission. It has been a very special few days," Marsh said. - Source: https://oceanadventures.co.za
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