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Private Baby Seal Rescue Center Is Full
From Francois Hugo, Seal Alert-SA
One in 100 baby seals make the 6 - 22 km swim to shore alive. But, with 36,000 babies born annually in the Cape, this can involve many hundreds if not thousands needing rescue annually.
Francois Hugo of Seal Alert-SA with some of his 60 baby Cape fur seals
Annually government and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) policy of banning CITES Appendix II listed endangered and protected Cape fur seals from all their original endemic islands in order to make these islands exclusively for seabird conservation - has its environmental and cruel negative side. It causes thousands of baby seals to be swept off their small displaced to awash rocks. At some of the 9 offshore colonies, the entire year's cohorts of the colony is effected. Most drown or become shark prey. The reason for this is although a marine mammal, these babies are not born with a waterproof skin/fur and cannot swim until 6 - 8 weeks of age. During mean pupping time each December, Cape Town City Refuse Department collects and disposes of 500-700 dead baby seals that get washed ashore on our public beaches - daily.
One in 100 baby seals make the 6 - 22 km swim to shore alive. But, with 36 000 babies born annually in the Cape, this can involve many hundreds if not thousands needing rescue annually.
Government's policy on this is that they will not fund seal rescue, nor allow seals to return or populated former islands, nor will they make available pilchard stock's to cease the cost of seal rescue. Instead their policy is if the seal is assessed healthy by a local vet, it should be returned to the colony. However to date in the Cape, government has undertaken no such rescue mission. Instead, its awarded the only Seal Rescue permit to the SPCA, who in turn responds and receives seal rescue calls from members of the public. The SPCA has them all then put down, as it believes baby seals cannot be successfully rehabilitated over 12 months, and weaned successfully to hunt on its own in the wild.
There is also the question of costs, with each baby consuming R20 000, mainly involving the purchase of pilchards for their baby liquidized fish feed formula for the year.
Some of the more than 50 baby seals that have arrived at the Seal Alert-SA centre in recent weeks
Francois Hugo of Seal Alert-SA has set-up private Seal Rescue and Rehabilitation facilities in Hout Bay Harbour over the past 10 - years. Its is self-funded. Each year I try to take in a select group of babies from different effected seal colonies, in order to further and pioneer the ability to successfully raise a group of babies in order to eventually establish the means of re-populating these extinct seal islands.
Things are very different this year. Mass baby seal strandings normally stop within the 1st week of January, as by then, either most have drowned or the remaining survivors have developed some means of swimming, and can therefore regain the awash rock on their own, if swept off repeatidly. But this year, daily, much smaller groups have been coming ashore constantly since January, with reports of 6-8 alive, and as many dead.
The most effected seal colony, appears to be the seal colony in False Bay. Where daily from Strand to Simonstown, NSRI, local vets, divers, beach constables and members of the public, have been reporting or bringing baby seals to Seal Alert-SA's facilities. Often the SPCA gets there first, and this has upset many members of the public when they find the SPCA taking the seal and putting them down, without any attempt at rehabilitation or rescue or care. Even the Editor of Top Billing Magazine found a baby pup walking in the road and brought it to Seal Alert-SA late one evening, and another Riccardo Gramatica (021-681 3142) was very distressed to learn of Seal Alert-SA's rescue efforts after handing the baby seal to the SPCA.
Dive Centre in Strand (084 900 9163) has even made their vehicle available for daily transport of baby seals to Seal Alert-SA.
The problem is, I am private, I receive no government funding or funding from any large ngo's. 58 baby seals at the centre have already indebted me privately to the sum of over 1 million rand, and although I would like to help the public and seals, I am physically maxed to the limit and have no idea, how I will find the money to cover this rehab for the year of rehabilitation required.
Last year, I successfully rehabbed a group of 13 babies, but 58 and counting is a crisis.
Pilchard fish processing factories or quota holders are unable or unwilling to donate fish, our primary costs, as they all claim reduced quotas and scarcity of fish. This further increases my costs as I am now required to purchase pilchards for the baby seals at R9 kg. Government should step in and make our fish rescue costs available at no cost.
It is not logical or community, to expect one individual to cater for the needs of both the seals and members of the whole of the Cape Peninsula. With many residents screaming at Seal Alert-SA for no longer being able to respond to stranded baby seals.
Seal Alert-SA's Seal Rescue centre is full.
Unfortunately with this type of species rehabilitation, volunteer work is not possible, as bonds need to be formed throughout the year, in order to able the pup to develop hunting and swimming skills in the wild, whilst still being able to return and suckle from his mom, daily or in our case, tube-fed into the stomach.
I therefore appeal for understanding, as I am doing more than is humanly possible. The rest is in the public's hands.
For the Seals,
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