We are so happy to announce that Saving Seals, a short film by local wildlife photographer and conservation ambassador Steve Benjamin of Animal Ocean, won the Grand Prix Award at the International Tourism Film Festival Africa in the Documentary and Television category. The film also won Gold in the Environment & Ecology thematic category.
Saving Seals was released in November 2022 and focuses on the breakthrough work being done by the Two Oceans Aquarium, the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation, the V&A Waterfront's Marine Wildlife Management Programme, the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, and international collaborators to develop a protocol to safely tranquilise distressed seals, in order for them to be disentangled from life-threatening nooses. Saving Seals explores the history of the seal disentanglement programme at the V&A Waterfront, and the desperate need for this new technology, which enables rescuers to help those seals that cannot be helped through other means.
Seal rescues and disentanglements in the V&A Waterfront have a long history of progress and innovation over the years. What started as rescues by the then Department of Fisheries, assisted by Vincent Calder of the Two Oceans Aquarium, grew into Calder and Claire Taylor, also of the Two Oceans Aquarium, developing a method to approach unsuspecting seals from below the jetties. This method has proven highly successful with specialised equipment and techniques being developed. Calder and Taylor’s efforts were recognised and have been incorporated into the Marine Wildlife Management Programme at the V&A Waterfront.
However, some these more “traditional” methods are unfortunately not always effective and alternatives, like the darting of seals, have had to be explored to deal with seals which are badly disentangled or in areas where they are inaccessible. The Two Oceans Aquarium and its Foundation has, over the last couple of years, worked closely with veterinarian Dr Brett Gardner of Zoos Victoria, and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, to trial a protocol for the use of sedative darts and stimulants on high-risk Cape fur seals. The paper Disentanglement of Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) with reversible medetomidine-midazolam-butorphanol published in the Journal of the South African Veterinary Association is a reflection of this collaboration, and the film Saving Seals highlights this particular method as an alternative to the “traditional” ways of disentangling seals.
The Two Oceans Aquarium and the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation congratulates Benjamin and the team involved in documenting the work with seals and winning these prestigious awards.