Passengers on the cruise ship Sinfonia had a treat on Saturday when they saw the release of Selso, a 22-month-old southern elephant seal, back into the ocean after months of rehab.
Selso was found stranded on a beach in KwaZulu-Natal in June.
Originally from the sub-Antarctic regions, the traumatised mammal was underweight and far from home. The uShaka Sea World veterinary and animal care team nursed him back to health and fell in love with him along the way. They had built up a special bond with Selso and saying goodbye was emotional for all involved.
Just after 7pm on Saturday, 25 nautical miles off the coast of Port Elizabeth, Selso’s crate was hoisted over the side of the Sinfonia.
Assistant curator of operations at uShaka Wayne Sumpton lifted the door on one side of the crate and, when the second side was opened, Selso dived into the water and surfaced briefly before disappearing.
During his two-day cruise, principal caregiver Colette Bodenstaff said: “Selso was the ideal patient as he is naturally calm and non-aggressive. At no stage did he show signs of stress, but was very curious when he saw the sea again.”
Before his release he was fitted with a satellite tag which will allow scientists from Oceans Coasts, a branch of the Water and Environmental Affairs Ministry, to monitor his whereabouts for up to a year after his release.
This will provide valuable information that will allow marine scientists to understand the behaviour in the wild.