14 December 2010

SAPPI Seal Platform finally a reality

Ingrid Sinclair
SAPPI Group Head: Corporate Affairs André Oberholzer and Two Oceans Aquarium Managing Director Dr Patrick Garratt at the new SAPPI Seal Platform

It’s been a long time coming, but the Aquarium finally has a seal platform of its own. The new platform – a joint venture between the Aquarium and founding partner SAPPI – outside Shoreline Café will help Aquarium staff in their mission to rescue injured Cape fur seals that live in the waters around the V&A Waterfront.

These seals are often the victims of plastic pollutants: being playful animals, they easily become ensnared in straps, bands and fishing lines with painful results.

For some time, Assistant Curator Claire Taylor and Assistant Technical Manager Vincent Calder have been working on various methods to deal with these injured seals, the sight of which has distressed Aquarium staff and members of the public.

The new SAPPI Seal Platform has a rope-driven gate, which allows Aquarium staff to enclose a wild, injured seal that would otherwise make a break for it should it spot a human approaching. With the new platform’s fencing, staff can enclose injured animals and then remove the nooses in which they’re caught.

Funds for the SAPPI Seal Platform were raised in part through a concert at the Aquarium in September, when folk legend Peter Sarstedt performed in front of the I&J Predator Exhibit to a riveted crowd.

An injured seal hanging around on the new platform

Speaking at the launch of the platform today, 14 December, Two Oceans Aquarium Managing Director Dr Patrick Garratt praised the efforts of Taylor and Calder, and thanked SAPPI for their continued support. “Whenever there’s a seal in trouble, this is the place to come,” Dr Garratt said. “We’re now in a position where we can say, ‘We have a solution!’”

Click here for photos of the unveiling.

An injured seal, recently freed from plastic nooses by Taylor and Calder, was rolling around on the new platform during today’s proceedings. Its injuries were visible and looked very painful, but knowing that it is now on the road to recovery made for a real feel-good moment at the Aquarium.

SAPPI Group Head: Corporate Affairs André Oberholzer, who was in attendance, said: “This is a very important day for us. We at SAPPI try to inculcate a message to people: If you do throw something away, make sure it gets recycled.”

Injuries to seals, he said, “is an example of what happens when people indiscriminately throw things away.”

Dr Garratt echoed these sentiments: “Our message to the public is: Just stop throwing things into the ocean. And to those in the fishing industries: whatever is plastic and is in a ring form, please just cut it.”

Speaking of SAPPI’s involvement in the Sappi River Meander, Oberholzer said: “This is a natural extension of our relationship [with the Aquarium]. It’s important for a corporate company to be able to provide support to people who take initiative.”

The seal present on the SAPPI Seal Platform shuffled towards freedom as Calder demonstrated the new working gate. Calder showed the crowd how nooses are broken – with a long hook – and explained that the seal we were looking at had a lame flipper that was probably a result of mating-season fighting. “We might have to get the vet in for this one,” he said.

See also

From left: SAPPI representatives Bradley Booth, Helga Easom, Lizelle Loxton, André Oberholzer and Julie de Goede
Vincent Calder and Claire Taylor
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