What to do with a stranded marine animal

  • 06 May 2015 | Ann Kunz | Category: Species

An adult male sub-Antarctic seal was spotted on the rocks in front of the Umhlanga Lighthouse on Sunday, 3 May 2015, 2 000km from his home range. Although underweight, the seal did not appear injured and could be seen resting in the sun below the Umhlanga lighthouse. 

By Monday evening, with the arrival of high tide, the seal had once again taken to the ocean.

This stranding and others that take place every year along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline involve whales, dolphins, seals, whale sharks, penguins and various other seabirds such as gannets and cormorants, yet there is no single known reason why it happens.

The sub-Antarctic seal resting on the rocks below the Umhlanga lighthouse

With the exception of seals, most marine animals that strand in KwaZulu-Natal do so because they are not in good health, so it is in their best interests not to return them to the water before they have been assessed and, if necessary, treated.

Seals, however, are often in good health when they come ashore, doing so merely to rest after a tiring swim from the southern Cape or even as far as Marion Island and Prince Edward Island, both of which belong to South Africa and lie in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean.

Seals usually return to the ocean once they have rested, so it is vital not to disturb a resting seal and to leave it to recover in its own time before it begins its epic journey back home to Antarctic waters.

It is up to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Network members to determine the best action for these animals. For instance, if the animal is found to be injured or sick, it might be best to transport it to uShaka Sea World's rehabilitation facility or, in the case of birds, to the Centre for Rehabilitation of Wildlife.

In KwaZulu-Natal there are three major natural events that attract more marine animals to our coastline: the Sardine Run (April to July), the southern right (Eubalaena australis) and humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) migrations (May to October) and the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) nesting season (October to March).

Every year, in addition to the animals directly involved in these natural phenomena, there is an increase in predatory activity from sharks, birds and seals.

If you find a stranded animal on the beach, please contact Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife on its 24-hour hotline: 083 380 6298.

It is important to provide a description of the animal and the exact location of the stranding, with directions if possible, as well as the contact details of the person who observed the stranding.

The seal rests on the warm rocks after a long swim from Antarctic waters

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