The Dyer Island Conservation Trust team had a rather unusual, and noisy, guest these past few months. There are occasional strandings of sub-Antarctic fur seals and one was reported as coming ashore in Cape Agulhas. The seal was under weight and had a long gash on the shoulder. Xolani Lawo and Trudi Malan of the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary responded with five star treatment that included good nutrition, and veterinary care. She was nicknamed Kuyabanda, a Xhosa word, meaning ‘it’s cold’ because of the chilly southern regions that she calls home.
Kuyabanda recovered well and had a feisty attitude – a good sign that she was strong and ready to head home. It was then that Greg Hofmeyr from Bayworld in Port Elizabeth fetched her and took her to the Bayworld facility to prepare for the journey home with two other ‘subbies’ Peaches and Mikey. The journey to home for these sub-Antarctic seals is some 2000kms away and satellite tracking data on this species has revealed they travel about 200kms per day southward, so it is important that they are released directly into the Agulhas current to make their journey that much easier. The Agulhas current flows southward on the east coast of Africa and would be expected to continue westward around the tip of Africa but for the Agulhas Bank which diverts the current southward. This ‘conveyor belt’ is 60 km offshore of Port Elizabeth. And the ideal place to release these young seals.
Kuya was a bit fussy when she arrived at Bayworld but soon adapted to her new surroundings and reached a wonderful goal weight of 9,4kg.
Greg Hofmeyer of Bayworld picks up the story:
So, on Monday morning (30 Nov) before six am, three seals were rudely awakened by Curator Fiona King, student Yvonne Sanders, and me. They were tagged on their front flippers with individually numbered yellow tags: Peaches 0092, Kuya 0093, and Mikey 0094. Then, further indignity, they were put into crates and taken down to the harbour where the Raggy Charters boat, Winkle, and its experienced crew, Jake Keeton and Warren Tarboton, were waiting. Raggy Charters had kindly subsidised the trip to sea. Three worried seals were loaded. The boat left the harbour and two and half hours later the sea turned a clear, clean blue and albatrosses glided around the boat. Beneath us was 2000m of sea swiftly flowing south. First for release was Peaches. She was hiding in the back of her crate, but as soon as she saw the Big Blue she knew that was where she was meant to be. With little hesitation she was in the water and was soon gone. Next up, Kuya. She too was happy to go. And disappeared without a backward glance. Mikey was the last to be released. He was a little troubled by being suspended above the water and was not keen to go but was eventually tipped out into the sea. He swam near the boat for a short while but was also soon gone.
Goodbye, our marvellous three seals. While we will miss you all, we are happy that you are on you way south. We could not give you satellite tags this time (they are very expensive), and so won’t be able to follow your adventures. But you do carry your flipper tags that identify you. Maybe one day on a cold and wet island in the Southern Ocean, a researcher walking along a lonely beach will see a tagged seal and report it to us. We will then know that one of Peaches, Mikey or Kuya is safely home. – Greg Hofmeyr
Kuya injured- photo by DICT
Kuya at APSS- photo by DICT
Kuya at Bayworld- photo by Greg Hofmeyr
Kuya released- photo by Jake Keeton