A young southern male elephant seal (Miroungaleonina) made his way onto a beach close to Port Shepstone on the lower south coast on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 27th as a crowd of beachgoers gathered in disbelief.
It is uncommon for elephant seals to rest on South African shores – so rare in fact that only ten elephant seals have been recorded along the KZN coastline in the past 40 years. They inhabit islands 2000 kilometres away in the sub-Antarctic.
As soon as the uShaka Sea World Animal Health team were alerted to the latest seal’s arrival, they made their way down to Margate to assess it. Unlike the previous southern elephant seal (Selso) who came ashore on the lower South Coast a couple of years ago , this two year old male appeared to be in excellent health and probably weighed around 150kg..
A decision was taken by members of the uShaka Sea World Animal Health team in conjunction with the KZN Stranding Network to leave him to rest on the beach and to provide him with protection from any possible threats as well as protecting the public from possible injury.
Although southern elephant seals are peaceful by nature, if approached by an untrained individual they could inflict serious injuries trying to defend themselves
Over the next six days Jello (as he has been affectionately named) spent time in the water and on various lower South Coast beaches under the vigilant eyes of his protectors. It is clear that Jello has crept into the hearts of the lower South Coast community. Members of the SPCA, SAPS Search & Rescue, Southbroom Conservancy, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Honorary Officers, Ezemvelo Wildlife staff , KZN Sharks Board, Wolf Security and various individuals set up 24 hour “seal watch”.
uShaka Sea World staff are monitoring the health and wellbeing of young Jello as he begins what appears to be the start of his annual moult. It could take anything from 11 days to an entire month for him to complete his moult. During this time he will spend long hours resting on the beach and returning to the water to either cool off or enjoy a fishy snack. If he is not moulting he could be just enjoying some much needed rest before his long journey home.
Although Jello is a rouge seal far from his natural foraging and resting grounds we trust he will behave in a relatively predictable fashion and that the locals and visitors to the lower south coast will enjoy hosting this special visitor.
Vagrant or rogue seals are often seen resting on KZN beaches from May to August each year. If you come across Jello or any other seal or other stranded marine mammal it is important that you do not approach the animal on your own.
Contact uShaka Sea World on 031 328 8222 (24hours)