Rare seal resting at uShaka before trip back to Antarctica
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DURBAN - AN adult crabeater seal native to Antarctica is adjusting well and enjoying his visit to uShaka Marine World before flying off to Bayworld in PE and eventually returning home.
Local walkers found Ragnar resting on some rocks at a Ramsgate beach on the South Coast last week. At present he is still resting at uShaka’s rehabilitation holding pools. The SPCA Lower South branch brought the rare seal to uShaka Marine World for observation and possible treatment.
Ann Kuntz, spokesperson for uShaka Marine World, said it was only the third recorded sighting of a crabeater seal on the KZN coastline over the past 40 years. “As rare as these sightings are in South Africa, possibly even rarer still is the sighting of two crabeater seals in South Africa on the same day. Another crabeater seal sighting was reported in East London yesterday. Crabeater seals are true seals who call the coast of Antarctica home,” she explained.
Upon arrival at uShaka Sea World, although resident veterinarian Dr Francois Lampen found him to be in good overall condition, he was understandably stressed. “The staff decided to call him Ragnar after the legendary viking Ragnar Lothbrok.
“He was admitted into one of the rehabilitation holding pools and left to rest and adjust to his new surroundings. As the coast of Antarctica is almost totally devoid of human habitation, these seals have not evolved to fear humans – which is not necessarily a good thing,” she said.
The animal care staff are investigating the various possibilities which could have caused Ragnar to stray from his natural feeding grounds and end up on the KZN coast.
“Crabeater seals do not eat crabs. They are specialist feeders feeding on the abundant krill of the Southern Ocean. This was presenting a challenge and the seal team researched and implemented innovative ways to entice feeding. Our staff is very excited since he started eating well this week after a few days to adjust and is now able to eat 1,8kg per feed.”
uShaka are in consultation with seal specialist Dr Greg Hofmeyer from Bayworld PE who has vast experience in marine mammal management for guidance on Ragnar’s care, treatment and reintroduction to the ocean.
“Ragnar is unique and we will do our best to ensure he is soon fit and strong enough to make his way back to Antarctica.”