A rare baby seal was found washed up on a beach near Muizenberg, this is the story of how Edward Flipperhands was saved and released back to the wild.


The journey began back in June 2017 when a quick witted member of the public out walking along Capricorn beach (a 16 hectare site fronting onto the False Bay Coastal Park at Muizenberg) reported a distressed seal pup in need of help.

Wildlife Trainee Inspector Minette Pieterse & Trainee Inspector Connor Berning responded to the call immediately.

On arriving at Capricorn Beach the inspectors identified the stranded seal as a Sub-Antarctic Fur seal which is fairly uncommon along our shores. They believe that the animal had possibly become disorientated and as a result washed up on shore dehydrated and malnourished.

The recent storms off the coast during that time may have caused it to separate from its mother or the mother may have died.

“Thanks to support from people like you our Wildlife Inspectors have been able to properly care for him during his stay at our Wildlife Unit’s Short Term Care Facility. In the first few weeks he was monitored every few hours and fed a diet rich in supplements to ensure he would quickly between 4- 6kg.”

On arrival Edward was being handfed, which is quite a task with those sharp teeth, to bolster his recovery – after a few weeks they were very happy to find him he eating unassisted which was a great sign. There is no doubt that he would have died had it not been for their intervention.

He was really malnourished upon arrival and it took significant commitment on the part of the staff to get Edward eating and thriving. Naturally, this amount of human interaction coupled with the fact that Edward has never hunted for his own food, left the team seriously concerned that he would deteriorate and be at significant risk if they simple released him back to the ocean.

By mid-October the seal, affectionately dubbed “Edward Flipperhands”, had been at the Short Term Wildlife rehabilitation centre for almost 4 months. The tricky part to his release centred around the fact that Edward was also very far from home as this specific species of seal are only occasional visitors to South Africa’s shores – so even if Edward could thrive on his own, he would not be likely to meet another of his kind in the near future.

“This was when we called in the team from Bayworld, Port Elizabeth who happened to have 2 Sub-Antarctic Seals in their care and which would be invaluable to Edward’s rehabilitation process.”

These two seals were also being rehabilitated and will be returned to their natural habitat together with Edward when they are ready.  This is so important because they will be able to teach Edward to hunt and feed and behave essentially like a seal would in the wild.

But Edward the Sub-Antarctic fur seal, and some of his friends have made their long awaited return into the ocean thanks to the efforts of Bayworld PEBidAir PetLounge and CoGH Inspector Connor Berning.

On the morning of the 18th October, Greg Hofmeyr of Bayworld and some of his staff along with Inspector Berning began ‘tagging’ the seals and capturing some basic data such as weight and length as well as a genetic samples. The seals were tagged for the purpose of monitoring their success rate which will track if the same seal is stranded multiple times etc.

Edward was one of the more difficult seals to handle which in itself was a positive sign, as it shows that even while being in captivity he had not imprinted on his handlers and was ready to be a wild seal again.

The seals and staff were then all loaded onto a small research vessel and after a quick safety briefing and sea sickness warning were on their way. After about an hour and a half of being at sea the skipper stopped and informed the crew that the seas were too rough for such an endeavour and we would have to return to ensure everyone’s safety.

Despite some rather rough seas almost thwarting the release, on the afternoon of October 31st Edward Flipperhands was successfully returned to the wild when Bayworld staff go word there was a break in the bad seas.

The current where Edward was released should return the seals to the area they belong and reunite them with the Sub Antarctic fur seals in that region.

Sources: GTG interview
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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