Baby seals off the rocks

05 January 2015 - 02:12 By Katharine Child
THEREBY HANGS A TAIL: SPCA inspector Gareth Petterson rescues seal pups washed ashore in Western Cape over the festive season
THEREBY HANGS A TAIL: SPCA inspector Gareth Petterson rescues seal pups washed ashore in Western Cape over the festive season
Image: CLIVE MATTHEWS/SPCA

A record number of baby seals was washed up on the Western Cape coast last month.

Rescuers had to battle stormy seas and strong winds as they tried to return them to the ocean.

Professor Les Underhill, of the University of Cape Town's department of biological sciences, said: "The strong winds have swept the pups off the rocks.

"Both Seal Island and the rocky outcrops off Koeberg are pretty low-lying and the huge waves would wash them off."

He said there were many pups at this time of the year because seals gave birth in a "remarkably short period in early December".

A volunteer from the National Sea Rescue Institute used a Jet Ski to return 117 seal pups to islands near Koeberg Nature Reserve at the weekend.

The pups had washed up on a private beach near the Koeberg nuclear power station last week.

On New Year's Day two fishermen used their boats to help the SPCA return 82 seal pups to Seal Island, in False Bay.

The SPCA's Allan Perrins said the fishermen had told him that it was "good to give back to the sea".

Eighty-four seals were rescued on False Bay beaches last month.

Most of the pups were kept in pools maintained by the SPCA in Grassy Park until sea conditions allowed a return to Seal Island.

SPCA wildlife unit manager Megan Reid said this was the highest number of pups washed ashore in the province in six years.

About 200 beachings were recorded in Mossel Bay in December, said Reid.

  • The Cornwall Wildlife Trust, in the UK, has expressed concern that no reason can be found for the hugely increased numbers of seal pups washed up dead or alive on Cornish beaches - doubling the numbers of recent years.
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