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Marine Wildlife Management team saves a seal in Sturrock Dry Dock!

Marine Wildlife Management team saves a seal in Sturrock Dry Dock!

On 21 April 2023, our Marine Wildlife Management Programme team was contacted about two seals trapped in the dry dock in the V&A Waterfront. 

How does a dry dock work? The main gate opens, a boat enters the dock, the water is pumped out into the harbour, and the area remains watertight. Unfortunately, any animals that swam into the dry dock while the gate was open and the water was high are stuck there.

This is a dangerous situation for animals like seals - the dry dock's high walls, stairs, and watertight nature prevent seals from escaping. Our Marine Wildlife Management Programme team discovered that a smaller seal had tried to climb the wall's stairs before their arrival, and unfortunately, fell to its death. The larger of the two was very agitated, and kept trying to climb the stairs - according to the workers at the dock, this seal had also fallen from quite a height.

The rescue team included the Two Oceans Aquarium's vet, Dr Ilse Jenkinson, and several Marine Wildlife Management Programme (MWMP) staff. 

Follow our photostory to see the incredible rescue unfold! 

The seal on one of the lower ledges of Sturrock Dry Dock.
Because of the size of the seal, our MWMP (with permissions from the Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries) decide to dart it with a sedative.

After Dr Ilse darted the seal, the team waited 15 minutes for it to take effect - the sedative didn't put the animal to sleep, but kept it pacified so that the rescue wasn't traumatic or stressful.

MWMP Coordinator, Brett Glasby, places a net around a Cape fur seal to transport it to the top of the dry dock in which it was trapped..
The team secures the net so that the seal is secure and safe.
The MWMP team begins to carry the seal out of the dry dock.
They climb several flights of stairs with the sedated seal.
Finally at the top, the team lays the seal down so that Dr Ilse can conduct an inspection.
After its reported fall, Dr Ilse was concerned about the state of the seal's hips and hind flippers.

Dr Ilse conducted a physical examination of the seal. Luckily, she concluded that there were no broken bones but some swelling and discomfort. 

Dr Ilse gives the seal an anti-inflammatory and some painkillers for the swelling.
Dr Ilse takes blood samples for future monitoring.
Brett places a tag on the seal's flipper.

Tagging seals in the V&A Waterfront precinct is vital in monitoring their movements, health, and the success of rescues or disentanglements. This seal got a green tag, which signals to the Two Oceans Aquarium staff that it was in the dry dock.

Once the sedative had worn off, the MWMP team released the seal into the harbour, where it quickly swam off.

This rescue is indicative of the valuable role of our Marine Wildlife Management Programme in the V&A Waterfront, an area in which marine wildlife and humans interact on a daily basis. Thanks to the awesome efforts of our team, this seal is back on its flippers. 

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