Washed-up elephant seal rescued by uShaka staff

On 29 June 2013, a young southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) washed up on the beach at Southbroom, severely underweight and thousands of kilometres from home. Staff at uShaka Sea World Animal Rescue Centre went to fetch the young seal and immediately fell in love, his big eyes stealing their hearts.

Selso, the young elephant seal. All photos by Ann Kunz

It is unusual for southern elephant seals to strand on the KZN coastline, as they live in large colonies on islands in the sub-Antarctic region. It is estimated that the young seal, named Selso, is approximately nine months old and should be double his current weight. Other than his obvious weight loss and a small laceration under his chin, he has no other visible signs of trauma. The animal care staff, led by resident veterinarian Caryl Furniss, are investigating the various possibilities which could have caused him to stray from his social group and end up in such a compromised state.

Assistant Curator: Mammals and Birds, Colette Bodenstaff, looks after Selso

The animal care team are liaising with veterinarians from across the globe to ensure they are able to offer him the best possible chance of recovery, and a second chance.

Southern elephant seals live in sub-Antarctic waters that are rich in fish and squid. Both the males and females spend months at sea on different migration routes, searching for food. They are able to dive to great depths in search of squid. These seals are the largest of all the seals, the males weighing over 4 000kg and the females around 380kg. They get their name from the adult males' trunk-like inflatable snout.

Young Selso is being treated with antibiotics, vitamins and a specially prepared fish gruel, and has a private area in the rehab centre where he can rest and swim. We are all hopeful he will soon start recovering from his long journey, and one day sport himself an inflatable snout.

Selso being transported to uShaka Sea World from the beach at Southbroom

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