What is small, furry, cute and the first ever of its kind on South African shores?
Sea World’s latest arrival, Arcto the seal!
Biologically known as the Antarctic Fur Seal, Arcto has travelled over 4,000 kilometres from the icy waters of the Antarctic, to the warm currents of the Indian Ocean to join his new family.
A little research shows that Antarctic Fur Seals are naturally found at Antarctica, with most being at home on the South Georgia Islands. Breakaway groups are, however, also found on the South Sandwich Islands, Falkland Islands and Kerguelen Island – one of the most isolated places on earth. Since the latter is closest to South Africa, the uShaka Sea World caregivers estimate that Arcto started his travels from there!
Although it is well documented that wandering or vagrant seals of all species are found far from their natural feeding grounds from time to time, the reasons for this are not well understood. However, it is known that juveniles and young seals spend several years at sea before returning to their birth sites to mate for the first time. As a young adult male, Arcto could well have lost his way.
Along his travels, he ended up on a beach at Port Edward on the lower KZN South Coast last week and was brought to the uShaka Sea World Rehabilitation Centre by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife staff.
Within minutes of his arrival, the staff realised that he was nothing like the other seals that have been welcomed over the years:
“I have been working with stranded seals for over 25 years but have never observed a seal like Arcto before. He was placid, accepting of the assistance we offered and appeared to be content and oblivious to any possible or perceived threats,” says Colette Bodenstaff, Assistant Curator of Mammals and Birds at uShaka.
Although extremely thin and lethargic when he arrived, caregivers found no signs of injury. The animal health team and behaviourists have mapped out a treatment plan that will see him fattening him up before his expected release back into the wild.
However, as all this is uncharted territory for both the Sea World staff and Arcto, it is not known how long it will take to have him back in the ocean again. Until then, his care and wellbeing at uShaka comes sealed with a kiss!