Dear All Seal Supporters,

Both my planned trips to False Bay and to Elands Bay, had to be cancelled. On Christmas Day a 2 to 3 year old female was rescued from Fish Hoek (False Bay), unfortunately although quite thin, her body condition was not that bad. She responded well initially, but clearly something was again wrong with her tummy, 12 hours later she started rolling over and over, and then died in her sleep. The next day, almost a mirror image of the day before's rescue, same age, sex, size, condition. Sadly this young seal died whilst being brought to me by a kind member of the Fish Hoek Surf Lifesaving Squad. I took her immediately for a post mortem.

Cause of death unknown, but I suspect it was the stress involved in handling prior to effective treatment. Proof once again, that not only was the stomach completely empty, but the large and small intestines as well. Clearly pathetically managed overfishing is having a severe and unfair effect on the survival of these seals at the tip of Africa.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bruce our vet, who at any moments notice has agreed to help, prescribe, do PM's and generally offer whatever expert advise is necessary, all without fee, his assistance has been amazing.

I have decided to concentrate on getting what we have through. "Buller" had to be brought back home as she was not doing well in the wild, she would only accept the tail portion of the pilchards and was clearly not getting enough to heal. Over two days, I trial and tested numerous different fish species until I found she loved, Tuna, good for her but at R56/kg, she is costing me over R150/day, her full rehab over the next 3 months is going to be expensive. Since finding the food she loved, she has been returned to the wild to continue her rehab, and is doing much better, it was also discovered that she was full of "tape worm" and so has been de-wormed. I think we are heading for a complete recovery.

Our two latest pups, have been named. Rob Lindeman has chosen "Myrna" after his wife, and we have chosen to name the young female with this name. Paola has chosen to name our other male "Max".

OIPA and Paola, have been extremely busy in Italy for the Cape Fur Seals, at a Theatre in Milan, they had an information stand and I believe that they attracted numerous signatures for our "Gun Free Seal Campaign", seen below is Paola with a very well known Television news reporter, Alessandro Cecchi Paone.

"Mumkin" is just growing from strength to strength, and I just adore him. The other evening, "Mumkin" became fascinated with our dog, "Ma-Ma" a "street special", who came to us after giving birth to 6 pups, which she carried each one individually to our house, all was starving to death, her owners sold all the rest, and one last pup, refused to be sold, has been adopted by us, this pup, known has "Gremmy", looks just like a wild African dog. What is truly amazing, although "Mumkin" has a fear of my wife, Nelda, he had absolutely no fear of "Ma-Ma", and the two play for hours on end, with "Ma-Ma" frequently grooming him like he is one of her own.

What is shocking about this observed behaviour by all 3 pups, is their complete lack of fear and attraction to a domestic dog, both "Ma-Ma" and "Gremmy", one has to wonder what happens in Namibia on the mainland, when the pups encounter Jackals and hyenas, do they actually run up to these predators and then get carried off and eaten? Adult seals do not appear to display this open affection towards other dogs.

Raising these 3 pups, all from the same sad colony has been difficult. The weakest, the one in the cave, the male, "Max", found barely alive, half blind from malnutrition, with collapsed hind quarters is doing well, and has adopted the scent of my wife and has started to suckle from her arm. Day by day is getting stronger, can now walk on all fours, and took his first swim un-aided yesterday. The other "Myrna", the smallest of the group, has not been doing so well, initially strong, then she started to get very aggressive, biting hard the other pups, even much bigger "Mumkin" ran terrified to me frequently, then one afternoon on my return from the other seals down on my raft, I found "Myrna" collapsed, lifeless and eyes flickering, a quick dose of glucose, B1, mineral water, sea salt, antibiotic and a disprin, and lots of love and I waited for a recovery. Within minutes "Myrna" had vomited up all her "rescue remedy" and she was just producing completely diarrhea.

For hours I held her lifeless body, with barely a breath in her. Eight hours passed, and suddenly there was movement, her eyes opened "rounded" and like a "rocket" she was back, zooming after "Mumkin" this time in play.

Two is a couple, but three is a group. I had one wish for 2006, and that is to raise a group of seal pups, together. I have waited over 5 years for this, and hopefully this will happen. This makes introducing groups of rescued pups back to their original offshore islands now possible.

Two little bulls at play, with "Myrna" in the foreground. The three, have bonded like nothing I have ever seen before, with "Mumkin" clearly their leader. They swim, want feed together, play together and sleep together. It would be the greatest thing to raise all these 3 from the same sad colony. 2006, is bound to be full of excitement, joy and hardship. My knees are already taking a beating, and with 18 tube-feeds a day, kneeling, I have resorted to wearing "skate-board" knee guards.

On the downside, I fear for their future. Hout Bay the second busiest fishing harbour in South Africa, has run out of Pilchards or "bait", there is not a single pilchard to be found anywhere in the Cape. Retail shops for fish are losing major profits and fishermen cant purchase "bait" with which to catch fish. The Pilchard trawlers are only due to return to fishing end of January. I have no idea where I will purchase my "pilchard" needs from, and even if I can source some stock, I have no large holding capacity, I have 3 days supply and then thats it.

When you face reality like this, knowing thousands of seals must be out there starving because of man's greed and the earth's resources are empty, you start to realise how bad things are. In this same week, WWF-SA has released a "robot" card to educate the public on "threatened", "near threatened" and "bountiful" fish stocks/species to purchase (Red, Orange, Green). What planet are these multi-million dollar funded conservation organizations from, there is next to nothing left.

On this sober note. My wish for 2006, is to never mention the words, "Sustainable - Conservation", as I believe them just to be words. My second wish, is that we "All" talk less about our wildlife and "physically" do something to help them. In my opinion, if we want to stop 375 000 seals being slaughtered in Canada, we should not complain about the "slaughter", but instead go out and "save and rescue" 375 000. Make these big "Conservation" ngo's use the money they were given. Likewise, we should forget "campaigns" to stop "clubbing" and start "campaigns" to "rescue and save" seals. Otherwise we are all just "exploiting" the animals in anotherway.

So, would you all please have a great New Year, and the best your heart desires for 2006.
You have all made my "wish" for 2006 come true, these 3 little pups, have become fondly known by me as the "Three Musketeers". All for one, and one for all.
I plan to transfer them all to the BWC/Spirit of Seal Supporters boat/Rafts on the 9th of January, to avoid any problems with "drunken" boaters who could harass them, and will send clear pictures of each one soon.

My best to you ALL.
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA