Monday 13 February 2006

Dear All Seal Supporters,

Since my last update, I came down with flu, feeling really muff, it was terrible crawling out of bed, going down to the babies, and straight back into bed. It seems, being isolated from humans as much as I am, spending most of my day amongst wildlife, one appears to more easily become infected with "human diseases". I have heard the same applies to voyaging yachtsmen, who become infected the moment they come into port.

Each day, Mumkin's swim stroke is getting better. Initially these baby seal's do not have a clue. At first they wave their back flippers like a fish's tail fin, before releasing it is for stability and steering, not power. They also think they must keep their head above water, before realizing they are designed to swim underwater. It is great in fact, that Mumkin is 30days older than Max or Myrna, as by the time they are ready for their sea swims, he should be a competent swimmer, and the burden of then watching over 3 swimming babies will be that much easier.

It is indeed, such an honour, to witness how Mumkin, afraid to swim on his own, even afraid of his own kind or anything larger than himself lurking beneath the deep, feels totally confidence with me in the water. As if I can protect and defend him from all dangers. Little does he actually know, he can out swim me anytime. It does show however, that man and marine wildlife, can interact and share this world together.

Mumkin jumping for joy - still not sure whether these flippers are meant for flying or swimming.

Some years back, I assisted a young bull, whose hind flippers had become severely infected after being chopped off on the ends by a boat's propeller. The other day I noticed that a seal, which appeared fast asleep, had been there two days and had not moved. Upon checking him over, I found he was dead. An old friend, had returned to die on the raft after years of being away, and I did not even realize it. An examination of him, revealed no obvious cause or reason for his death, he just died in apparent good body condition. In sadness I took him out and back from where he had come. His eyes were half open and appears to have died in his sleep, very, very strange.

An old friend who came to say goodbye

From no boxed frozen pilchards, a few days ago, to now a sudden massive onslaught. Large trawler boats filled the harbour, forced to ly 6 vessels deep in some cases, each capable of destroying 250 tons a trip of nature's 'building blocks", small pelagic surface shoaling fish. Await sunset, before setting off. It just amazes me that we have all been duped. There is no official sustainable fishing or conservation practices, history teaches us this, first they killed the biggest and easiest, and most obvious, first the whales, then the seals, then the seabirds, then their eggs, then their guano (bird droppings), then the surface shoaling fish, then the big game deep water fish, then the bottom dwelling fish and creatures, and now even the sea plants. Throughout history, it has just been exploit one species over another until no longer commercially exploitable. Today to try impose "sustainable practices" is rather like putting on a "wedding dress" to "work on a car".

Do you see how any of these vessels are fishing sustainable or in a conservation minded way

Unfortunately the large bull, with a big fish hook caught somewhere in his stomach, see below with the end of the fishing line protruding, has refused to accept any of my help. Preferring instead to just stay abroad the "Spirit of Seal Supporters - BWC" boat and rest. Should he weaken, I will have to physically intervene, but for now he seems ok, and I am watching with interest, how he will deal with his dilemma.

Max, our weakest muskaflipper, has still not shown any interest in swimming in the sea. He clearly feels very secure in his boat and is quite happy just to swim in his pool and play with his siblings. Myrna on the other hand, thinks the entire rafts, boat and seals upon it, are her "toys" to play with, from small to grumpy old bulls, all have experienced her "charm". 30 days younger than Mumkin, I expect within the next few weeks, all three will begin their "sea" swimming lessons.

Max and Myrna at play, with Mumkin and me, doing our swimming lessons

This week has been a wonderful week of old friends. Below both my very first baby seals rescued and hand raised for the first 6 months at home, Kidogo, now in his third year and doing so well surviving on his own, has been visiting and staying on the raft frequently. I am of course so proud of him. Whilst I can stroke him, he no longer lets me pick him up, but still enjoys, our little "games" of challenge. I remember how he used to love watching TV.

Kidogo and a loving kiss from Popeye

Popeye, my second baby pup rescued, now 2 years old, has been around me constantly, and is actually taking an active interest in watching over mumkin when he swims. It is truly amazing to be surrounded by generations of babies, that would otherwise be dead, each now with a completely independent personality, all together. A truly rewarding feeling.

The return of Kidogo and Popeye, clearly prove that each "pupping time", all seals of all age groups return to their "natal or birth" colonies, until after the March molt, where upon they will head out, for months again at sea to forage, following the migratory paths of various fish species. From Kidogo, Popeye and now soon to be Mumkin, Max and Myrna, the raft and boat below represent their "natal" colony. This will have to be addressed urgently, for this is clearly in future unacceptable. I am therefore planning with some urgency, to find some appropriate offshore rock to establish instead, as their natal/birth colony, a rock that will survive all the ages of time, and allow generations of future pups to colonise a more natural environment.

Myrna taking chances sitting on a large bull, no other seals would dare do

All is going very well with the 3 Muskaflippers, in the coming weeks, once all three have their "sea legs", I will be able to begin my coastal patrols on the jetski to find other sick or dying seals along our coast, and in the months to come, more further and further afield. The little weak yearling, whom I have been "grabbing", tube feeding and releasing, appears after 5 days of doing better. So much so, that he no longer allows me to catch him. Last night I noticed him heading out with a group on a sunset, all night foraging trip out to sea, so lets hope, that positive intervention, was just the "spark" he needed to get back on his little flippers.

Mumkin darting off and returning for that quick confidence building "hug"

For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA