Being closely situated to a working harbour, the Two Oceans Aquarium team regularly encounters seals that have become entangled in discarded fishing line and packaging materials. Often, these get around the animal's neck and slowly cut into their flesh over time - eventually killing them if humans don't intervene.
To free a seal, the team needs to sneak up on in while it is resting and quickly insert a hooked blade under the noose and cut it off. The reason we sneak up on the seals is that if it escapes into the deep water, we have no chance of rescuing it. Also, we want to encourage the seals to rest on platforms where our team can access them - so scaring them badly might make them choose to rest somewhere else.
Although we've become quite experienced at these rescues, things don't go to plan and we need to improvise!
This seal, which was freed earlier this year, was one of those exceptions!
An Aquarium staff member snuck under the sleeping seals and hooked the blade around the rope entangling it - only to discover that the rope was too strong to be sliced by our blade! Luckily, the quick thinking of the team meant that after a brief scare, this seal could be cut free of the rope around its neck!
Please don't try this on your own - even though they are cute, seals are wild animals that are in pain and will bite you if they feel threatened. Get in touch with your local wildlife and animal welfare organisations for assistance instead!
If you spot an entangled or injured seal in the V&A Waterfront or Cape Town Harbour, please get in touch with the Two Oceans Aquarium - we'll monitor the seal and intervene when we have the chance to do so safely. For other areas of the Cape, please contact the SPCA Wildlife Unit on +27 21 700 4140 or +27 83 326 1604.