Selso heads for the Antarctic

A map tracing Selso's movements since his release near Port Elizabeth

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.

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