On Thursday 30 September 2010 internationally renowned singer Peter Sarstedt will perform in the Two Oceans Aquarium in aid of the Aquarium’s harbour-seal project. Sarstedt is visiting South Africa as a guest of Sappi to help raise funds and awareness for various environmental conservation organisations with which Sappi is associated.
Many of the seals that frequent the waters around the V&A Waterfront have either some kind of strap or noose cutting into their flesh or scars from previous injuries. These wounds are as a result of either people leaving fishing line, bait box bands, rope, raffia cord etc lying around which then finds its way into the water or from run-off via storm water drains.
Being playful, inquisitive animals, the seals fall victim to this pollution by swimming into the nooses. Over time the noose gets tighter and cuts deeper into the flesh, causing nasty wounds that could ultimately lead to the death of the animal if not removed. The sight of these injured seals raises much concern from distressed members of the public.
Aquarium staff members Claire Taylor (Assistant Curator) and Vincent Calder (Assistant Technical Manager) work closely with Mike Meyer of Marine and Coastal Management (MCM), cutting the nooses off the seals and tagging the seals. This is not an easy task as it is extremely difficult to get close to these alert and potentially aggressive animals.
The team approaches the seals by boat and snips the nooses with a hook pole or snorkels beneath the piers where the affected seals are basking in the sun and snips the treacherous nooses without disturbing the animals unnecessarily.
“The seals are wild animals and it is not always easy to catch them unawares so that we can remove the nooses. As soon as they become aware of us, they leap into the water. We can spend hours trying to cut a noose from a seal only be thwarted at the last moment when the animal leaps into the water,” said Taylor.
Depending on the extent of the injury, it is sometimes preferable to restrain the seals and Meyer, Taylor and Calder have long envisaged a platform directly outside the Aquarium which will enable them to ‘gate’ an injured seal so that they can work quickly and effectively with the animal.
“We have come up with a design for the platform which not only considers the needs and behaviours of the seals, but which will also enable us to help these animals in the best possible way. We believe that the platform will also be an attraction at the Waterfront and will help us to educate visitors about seals and the pollution which is so harmful to them,” said Calder.
When Tim Neary, an environmental journalist, filmmaker and consultant to Sappi, filmed the team in action with the seals for National Geographic, he vowed to assist them in some way in the future.
“When you get into cold water at sunrise and swim under dark jetties to sneak up on a seal and release the box strap from a deep wound you realise that Claire and Vince are going beyond the extra mile and that this is pure dedication and conservation at its best…… they don’t talk, they do! I was also impressed that this is hands-off and that the seals are not captured and habituated, but rather freed from the strapping to allow nature to take its course. This is project offers a man-made solution to a man-made problem”.
“Sappi has long partnered with the Two Oceans Aquarium through sponsorship of the Sappi River Meander which highlights the value of our natural waterways from source to sea and water biodiversity. We value and respect the work that is carried out here and are proud to introduce Peter Sarstedt to one of the projects facilitated by the Aquarium. We are sure his support will benefit the harbour seals,” said Celia Bayley, Communications Manager at Sappi.
“We are thrilled that Sappi, one of our founder partners, has agreed to assist us with yet another conservation initiative. Not only have they agreed to donate all the funds raised by the concert towards our seal project, but they have also committed to subsidising the outstanding amount required for the platform,” said Two Oceans Aquarium Communications and Sustainability Manager Helen Lockhart. “We are grateful to Sappi for its support and for sharing in our vision to ‘foster love, respect and understanding of our oceans to inspire support for their future well-being’.”
Sarstedt first came to prominence in February 1969 with the hit single “Where do you go to, my lovely”. He held this position for six weeks on the British charts, and reached the number one position in 14 other countries. He was awarded the highly coveted Ivor Novello Award for Best Song 1969/70 for this composition.
Sarstedt’s signature songs were a product of a time when folk singing created an awareness of and protested many an injustice and captivated the world in passive protest that formed the basis of change in many communities and countries.
Today, Sarstedt continues to write and perform music and songs throughout the world. While his ’green music’ entertains, it also speaks of the hope for sustainable improvement of our planet. Sarstedt’s commitment to environmental conservation is highlighted in his ‘Green Alphabet’ song as it explores environmental issues that require urgent action from A to Z. “Hemmingway” is a song of passion for Africa which depicts the ease in which we can lose the beauty of the natural world.
Other beneficiaries of the 2010 Sarstedt South African visit include the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre at De Wildt; Birdlife South Africa; the Freeme Rehabilitation Centre; the Pilansberg Wildlife Trust; the Bergvlam Wetland Rehabilitation project in Nelspruit, in conjunction with the Innibos Arts Festival; the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort; the Anatolian Sheppard Project with Cheetah Outreach at the Bienne Donne Outdoor and Travel Show in Franschoek and the Sappi Green Ambassador Recycling programme. Sarstedt will also hold a number of ‘singer songwriter’ workshops for aspiring musicians, in keeping with both Sappi’s and his support and encouragement of music in South Africa.
The concert at the Two Oceans Aquarium starts at 19h00. Tickets cost R180 per person and include a light meal while a cash bar will be available. Go to www.aquarium.co.za to purchase tickets online or visit the Aquarium’s ticket office between 09h30 and 17h00 daily. Seating is limited so book early to avoid disappointment.
For more information about the harbour-seal project contact:
Two Oceans Aquarium Communications & Sustainability Manager Helen Lockhart
For more information about Sappi and Peter Sarstedt’s visit contact:
Sappi/Sarstedt Project Coordinator Tim Neary
Tel: +27(0)83 656 7923