Kelp delivery earns seal of approval at uShaka Sea World

  • October 18, 2012 | Jonathan Ellerbeck

Seal trainer Jonathan Ellerbeck and assistant curator mammal and birds, Colette Bodenstaff unpack fresh kelp flown in from Cape Town

On Friday, October 12, 2012, a delivery of fresh kelp presented to our resident South African fur seals (Cape fur seals) was welcomed with flippers wide open.

For the past 10 years uShaka Sea World has been fortunate to receive a quarterly donation of fresh kelp from Kelpak, a Cape Town-based company, which the seals love. They enjoy chewing on the long stems, tugging on the leaves, swimming through and under it, entertaining their trainers in the process.

Jonathan throws kelp fronds into the water, to the obvious delight of the seals

Observation is carried out from a safe distance because kelp gets tossed around the seal exhibit and it takes the skill of a boxer to keep dodging it.

Kelp assists the trainers in caring for the health of the seals by acting as a natural toothbrush and getting rid of any plaque build-up on their teeth.

Illanga and Hobie are always the first to pounce on their slimy toys but are soon followed by the others who offer stiff competition for possession of the longest and strongest pieces.

Spungie and Mobi, our two brothers who were born at The National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, often play tug of war with each other for hours over a single piece.

The seals spend hours playing with the kelp fronds

Hlabathi, one of the younger seals, is rather selfish. She seldom shares her piece of kelp and prefers to play on her own. The other seals all take turns playing without any fuss or jealousy and continue to enjoy their kelp long after the trainers have packed up for the night.

We trust that we will continue to enjoy the privilege of receiving donations of kelp from the cold waters of the Cape for many years to come since it does not grow in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

Our seals rely on the generosity of caring organisations such as Kelpak, and caring members of the public to keep their kelp supply guaranteed.

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