Tuesday, April 4, 2006 1:53 PM

Subject: Update - Flight, Stones and seals that go bump in the night !

Dear All Cape Fur Seal Partners,

Threats to Seals :
Below is the aerial pics of Bird Island, 2.2ha, and the saga between seabirds and seals competing for island space, according to government officials. Clearly the gannets have left the (open patch of ground), but note that this small island is actually cut in half by a causeway, through which fishing vehicles travel to get to their fishing boats. In my opinion, this all looks like a giant man-made unnatural mess. For government to want to shoot and displace all these seals during pupping time is clearly madness. I contacted the MCM scientists involved, suddenly their "draft proposals" to the Minister has changed, they now do not support, "shoo-ing" or shooting, and prefer instead to attempt sterilization. Clearly public pressure is on them.

In the Media :
Thank you to those that wrote in to the newspapers. A week later Dr Herbert Henrich and Trudi Humphrey-Rankin letters were published. Proving once again that "we" should use our voice. Clear points were made, particularly with allowing seals to return to Robben our overall objective, and now read by over 500 000 readers.

Presently we are busy filming a wildlife program called the "Healing Power of Nature", which will be screened on local television. I also see from entry 8372 of the Petition to Ban Guns used to kill seals by fishermen, that
8372. Jean-Loup THIERS "just saw Francois on french TV : bravo !!" Toulouse - FRANCE
If anyone has seen the program on French TV, please let me know or alternatively sent me a copy if that is possible.

On the Rescue Front :
As you can see below, the raft from a high of over 50 recovering seals is almost deserted, particularly as their March moult is over, where the recovered will now head north after the migrating fish stocks, towards deadly seal clubbing Namibian waters, for the next 6 months. I hope they will be safe. On the personal side, my sickness has returned, and I am once again on antibiotics, it appears that now after 2 years, whatever is plaguing me, re-occurs every 3 months. So this together with few seals, has helped keep the pressure off me in rescue, with no attempts to find new seals, until I feel a little better. So Team USA and Team Kelowna, please give me some time, as I have something special in mind for each one of your teams. GO TO

An old bull, with almost no teeth, returned. It appears he has been stabbed in the neck and his right flipper was injured and infected. Whilst not a serious rescue, he did receive a little help and a protected place to recover.

I have done a few disentanglements. The one below requires mention. I received a call from a very irate tourist, about to pay his R50 to go and see the seals on the nearby rock, named after a seabird species. He informed me there was a seal swimming in the harbour, with plastic strapping around his neck. I replied that I was not aware of this seal, but not to worry, if he needs help he will come to the "Spirit of Seal Supporters/BWC" boat and raft. Sure enough the next morning there he was, in fact he had climbed inside to await his freedom.
As the pics illustrate, things can get somewhat overcrowded, but finally he is freed, with Myrna taking an active interest - and out he comes a free seal.

Petition Updates :
http://www.PetitionOnline.com/RobbenSA/ , this petition now stands at 1139 and SIGN THIS PETITION FOR THE CAPE FUR SEALS IN SOUTH AFRICA www.petitiononline.com/Rrancois/petition.html, which now stands on 8457.

On this subject of numbers, of interest, these "Seal Hate Groups", would have us believe that Seabird Lovers have a huge following, hence their banning of seals from islands, yet, if according to the Avian Demography Units website, which appears to be representative of all sea-birders, since November 1999, they have only had 74 691 hits on their website. In comparison, Earle's CVFA website for the Cape Fur Seals/Seal Alert-SA, in only the last 6 months has had 9282 hits, plus over 2000 signatures on guest book, plus 8457 supporting the Ban Guns Petition, plus another 1139 supporting the return of seals to Robben. Our little "unofficial" group could well exceed 111 000, for a similar period. Makes you think doesn't it.

Seal Behaviour :
For years, stones and small round pebbles have been appearing on the rafts upon which I work. I always assume it was kids throwing stones at the seals at night. Until I saw one seal and then a next, vomit them up. It was of interest recently when I read. 200 years ago, the great Swedish naturalist, Cark von Linne, when describing the animal group Phoca (=seals), as follows in part, (This is a dirty, curious, quarrelsome tribe, easily tamed. Feed on fish and marine productions, and swallow stones to prevent hunger, by distending the stomach), seems very little has changed in 200 years for seals.
Research :
On this subject, Jose Kersten and Marius Donker of ActionAgainstPoisioning in Portugal http://www.actionagainstpoisoning.com and Bev Pervan in South Africa, have taken up the challenge of researching the archives in Holland and Portugal, and local museums here, for the earliest accounts of mankind's encounter with seals off the tip of Africa, which research will prove invaluable in getting Unesco behind us and getting seals finally back on islands.

3 Muskaflippers :
Mumkin and Myrna now join me for regular swims. Myrna massaging that cute belly of hers. Even "dad" needs a little rest in-between, whilst the "bull pillow" yawns his approval, as well. Max has recovered well from his flipper abscess. However, he still has not left the raft for deeper sea swims. I have also noticed a slight drop in Mumkin and Myrna, and so just as a precaution, I have put all three back on antibiotics. It seems that their initial malnutrition and starvation, when just days old, has made them weaker than other pups normally rescued, and so even after 4 months, need a little more time to get strong and healthy.

On the Consumer Front :
My dear friend Louise of Compassion in World Farming and Beryl of Beauty Without Cruelty, are teamed up, in pushing "Animal Safe Products" on consumer goods. Below is an idea of a logo for the Cape Fur Seals to go on all fish products. Anjo and Judith are working on similar designs, and if anyone would like to submit their ideas please do. Soon, these logo's will be appearing in an article in Cosmopolitan Magazine. This is a great initiative, that could force fishing companies to stop drowning or shooting seals illegally, as they have done for decades. Please keep the logo, black and white.
Fund-Raising "
I believe Team Australia and Menkit are going full steam ahead with the Cape Fur Seal donation tins, she has also written a very clear and effective "flier", to explain the Cape Fur Seal plight in South Africa. Orders for T-shirt's are picking up, and I thought I would "model", my T-shirt for potential customers, please consider purchasing one, the quality is great. I also understand we have both new members joining, Team USA 2 and Team SealWatch Intl. Well done everybody, you make us proud.

This past Sunday, I took a 3 hour flight in a small 4-seater plane, with the door off, to get an aerial perspective of what is happening to the seal colonies on the west coast. At a cost of R850 an hour, I feel these flight will prove to be invaluable. If any of you are interested in sponsoring a flight or per hour, please do, as I would like to survey all the seal colonies in South Africa, to record the various weather and sea conditions, and how they impact on each seal colony during the year. This might be the only way that we can truly convince government to address their plight.
Where the 3 muskaflippers were born and rescued. Two years ago, this colony, possibly the oldest going back thousands of years, had 200 seals still alive and 200 dead. Last year, there was just 50 seals alive and 50 dead. Mumkin, Max and Myrna were rescued from this group, with only about 5 possible new-borns left alive. As the pics below show, this colony has declined further to just a handful, and is clearly in danger of going extinct, I wonder if any of those pups, are still alive, 3 months later.

Funny Stuff :
Kidogo, my first rescued new-born, now 4, has been around, and is maturing into a handsome young bull. For bulls, they have to earn the right to mate, and only get one chance, once a year. Strangely, although I have rescued a number of female seals, very seldom do you encounter a female. All the bulls on the raft, except one or two yearlings are male. As such Kidogo apparently needs to practice his mating/mounting skills, and so has decided very amorously to slither up to me and practice. My leg has now become his "cow", he even tried to mount me in the water the other day, from behind. Words seem to have no affect on him, and he uses every opportunity to test his skill. To be honest, I feel violated and abused, but in the nicest of ways.

Until later.
For the Seals
Francois Hugo - Seal Alert-SA
PS - Please react and send in those letters for an "official enquiry" into the genocide to seals. I cannot describe in detail how important and sad this is. Constant suffering, every minute of every day.