MSC Cruises saves baby seal from uncertain fate
MSC Cruises has reported back on a successful rescue mission after a baby seal was found stranded far from his natural habitat.
Back in 2013, the animal - named Selso by his rescuers - was discovered washed up on a beach in South Africa, Seatrade Insider reports.
He was taken to uShaka Sea World in Durban, where conservation workers determined that he was a young southern elephant seal - some 2,200 km from the closest colony!
When Selso arrived at the rehabilitation centre, he weighed 73 kg - less than half the average weight for an elephant seal of equivalent age.
It took him seven months to recover from his ordeal, at which point MSC Cruises stepped in to help release him back into the wild.
Thanks to the crew of the MSC Sinfonia, which docked in Durban in January, he made it back to the colony on Marion Island - thought to be his original home - on June 30th.
Selso is now said to be in excellent condition.
Selso, the two-year-old elephant seal released off the coast of Port Elizabeth on 11 January 2014, is steadily making his way towards his home range in the Southern Ocean.
Following six months of rehabilitation at uShaka Sea World, Selso was deemed fit for release and transported courtesy of an MSC cruise liner, the Sinfonia, to a pre-selected destination 25 nautical miles off the Port Elizabeth coastline.
Secure in his transport crate, Selso was carefully lifted by crane over the side of the ship and lowered until the box reached approximately one metre from the surface of the water. uShaka Sea World staff member Wayne Sumpton, who was harnessed to the crane, stood on top of the crate mid-air and released its doors. As the second door was opened, Selso wasted no time deliberating and dived straight into the Indian Ocean, surfacing only once before disappearing into the ocean depths. Selso’s progress is being closely monitored, thanks to the satellite tracker fitted to his head.
The morning after his release he appeared to be heading back towards the coast but thankfully, about 30km from shore, he seemed to find his bearings, turn around and head directly south, passing the point of his release along the way.
Over the next two days Selso merged with the south-moving Agulhas current, which travels down the east coast of Africa.
By the morning of Thursday 16 January Selso was recorded at 182 nautical miles south of Port Elizabeth. Since his release Selso has travelled an average of 76km per day and appears to be heading in the right direction – towards the Antarctic.
Elephant seals are solitary and spend their lives in the ocean, only moving on to land to moult or breed. At just two years of age, Selso is about three years from sexual maturity. He will feed primarily on squid and fish, consuming around 12kg of food a day.
Marion Island is home to a massive colony of thousands of elephant seals, and the most likely destination for Selso. He is expected to make landfall to moult in November 2014.