Durban - An exhausted seal has beached at Umhlanga Rocks, almost 2 000km from its breeding grounds on remote Marion Island in the Southern Indian Ocean.
The sub-Antarctic fur seal was seen on the rocks close to the Oyster Box Hotel at Umhlanga late on Sunday and was still on the beach late on Monday.
Although its arrival attracted attention from beach visitors, marine experts have appealed to the public to keep their distance and allow the animal to rest.
Ann Kunz of uShaka Marine World said the male seal was about eight years old and appeared to be underweight, but not injured.
“It is difficult to know why he is so far away from home. We can’t say whether it was chased by a predator or got into the wrong current, but we would like people to understand stranded animals need to rest and often return to the sea of their own accord once they have recovered. Unfortunately some concerned people wanted to help it by giving it water or coke to drink, or an umbrella, so Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife staff cordoned off the area yesterday.”
Michael Wood-Bodley, a law lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said he had photographed the seal soon after it appeared on the rocks just as it was getting dark on Sunday.
Ezemvelo staff were hoping the seal would return to the sea at high tide last night, but it moved on to the sand just before nightfall.
Officials are expected to reassess the situation this morning.
Kunz said about three or four Cape fur seals or sub-Antarctic fur seals were stranded along the KwaZulu-Natal coast each year.
“Seals are often in good health when they come ashore in KZN merely to rest after a tiring swim from the southern Cape or even as far as Marion and Prince Edward islands. They usually return to the ocean once they have rested.
“It is up to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Network members to determine the best action for stranded animals that is, if the animal is injured or sick, it might be best to transport it to uShaka Marine World Rehabilitation Facility or, in the case of birds, to CROW.
People who find stranded animals on the beach can contact the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife 24-hour hotline at: 083 380 6298.