Geneva, 24 July 2014 - In June 2013, a young southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) washed up on a beach in KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, exhausted and starving. It was clear that he needed help and was taken to the uShaka Sea World rehabilitation centre in Durban where he was named Selso.
Southern Elephant Seals normally inhabit the Southern Ocean with the closest island colony site being Marion Island 2200km south of South Africa and therefore it was unusual for the young seal to strand on the KZN coast.
When Selso arrived he weighed 73kg, less than half of what he should have weighed, and needed to put on 110Kg before he could be released. This took seven months.
When deemed fit enough, Selso was embarked aboard MSC Sinfonia in the port of Durban on 9 January 2014, lifted in a crate on the foredeck and secured under cover. He was released off the coast of Port Elisabeth on 11 January. Prior to leaving the uShaka Sea World rehabilitation centre he was fitted with a satellite tracking tag which would record his movements for up to one year.
It took no more than two days once released for Selso to get his bearings and head in the right direction. His epic journey took him steadily southwards covering a distance of over 8,000 kilometres in just under six months.
Southern Elephant Seals spend their lives at sea except when breeding and moulting, and Selso is no different. His southward journey included spending time in areas known to be good feeding grounds. By June he almost reached the Antarctic ice shelf but did not remain there long before turning around and heading north. He continued his northward journey and on 30 June hauled out on Marion Island. Marion Island is part of the Prince Edward Islands, in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean, that are part of South Africa.
Selso’s satellite transmitter indicated his location on the south side of the island and research staff were sent to access his condition. As visible on the pictures, he was found to be in excellent condition enjoying a well-deserved rest amongst the boulders.