Photo Credit: Bayworld

Greg Hofmeyr from Bayworld Museum Marine Mammals has shared incredible insight into Emily the Crabeater Seal – Her journey will now be tracked, showing just what kind of adventure she gets up to.


Gqeberha, South Africa (28 April 2024) – Greg Hofmeyr has captivated the Gqeberha community with his insights into the visiting seal affectionately named Emily. He confirmed she is a Crabeater Seal, native to much colder waters near the Antarctic.

Her visit here to South Africa has afforded scientists a great opportunity to track her movements. However, her presence also posed great risk to her health as her feeding style, which is more suction based, is not suited to sandy waters like ours. Greg and the Bayworld team quickly rushed to the beach to assess Emily and provide any care she may have needed.

“In late February, a very special seal came ashore on a sandy beach just west of Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth). I was sent a message about a large seal, “possibly very tired” on the beach. Since we receive many calls about seals ashore, I didn’t think too much of it until I received photographs of the animal. I immediately knew then that it was a crabeater seal. Crabeater seals live in the pack ice around Antarctica, and very rarely come north.

Only a few have been recorded as visitors to the South African coast. So I knew that this seal’s presence was very unusual. However, crabeater seals are not well suited to our beaches. They are suction feeders, eating small organisms under the ice. But on the South African coast they tend to swallow large amounts of sand. This often blocks their gut and they can die from a fatal colic. So I knew that we had to remove this seal from the beach as soon as possible. In fact, when a team from Bayworld got to the beach, we found that the seal’s mouth was full of sand. Had we arrived in time?” – Greg Hofmeyr

The team came up with a way to gently (as gently as one can be with a massive seal) capture Emily. She was thankfully caught and transported to Bayworld where treatment could begin to ensure she didn’t develop colic.

“Using a specialised “nutcracker net”, the team from Bayworld (Sibu, Bianca, Cherie, Mfundo and I), supported by Ken Pressley from Nelson Mandela Municipality’s Conservation Department and a number of registered volunteers, captured the seal. She did not like this, of course and was very stressed, but she needed to be removed from the beach.

We took her to Bayworld where she was released into a pen in our rehabilitation facility. Our vet examined her and indicated that she seemed to be in good health. Over the next two days, the seal pooed out large quantities of sand, clearing her system, and giving us hope that she would survive.”

Emily was bestowed her name by Winston Dyason, a PhD student in engineering from Nelson Mandela University, who was the first person to find her on the beach.

“Emily spent the next seven weeks at Bayworld enjoying our hospitality and improving her condition. Finally in mid April, she was ready and conditions were right for her release.”

She was sedated and transported back to the ocean. Before setting her free, Emily was fitted with a satellite tag and several samples were collected to keep on record. She was flipper tagged to help other marine conservation groups identify her in the future and then after waking up, was fed and released.

“At 4:30am on Saturday morning, a sleepy and confused Emily was herded into a crate, by a sleepy and confused team of Bayworld staff and volunteers. Then, she was transported down to the harbour where she was loaded onto the vessel, “Stampede”, ably skippered by Robbie Francis and crewed by Roger Muller. Robbie had kindly made a very trip available to her a minimal cost.

Accompanying us were Corissa and Corné Kitching whose kind sponsorship had made the trip possible. Also on board was Winston Dyason (now a Bayworld volunteer), Lungi Khumalo and me from Bayworld.

We then sailed due south. After almost four hours, the sea turned a dark blue and albatrosses flew around the vessel. We were 40 nautical miles (74 km) south of Cape Recife and over the middle of the Agulhas Current. The seabed was 1000 m below us. This body of water was flowing strongly south-west. This was the conveyor belt that we wanted to drop Emily into to give her all the assistance possible for her to return to Antarctica.”

Greg shares that they opened her specially built crate (thanks go to Bayworld’s display technician, Marvin Carstens for that one) and the moment she lay her eyes on the ocean, she made her way out the crate and over to the gunwales. She nervously surveyed her surroundings and then plopped into the ocean.

“Emily spent some time peering around her before she gradually disappeared over the horizon. I left her with whispered instructions. “Emily, swim south”.” – Greg Hofmeyr

Emily, a rare beauty, gave the team the chance to care for her and give her the fighting chance she needed to get back home safely. Hopefully someday, researches in the Antarctic will see her tags and reach out to Greg and the team to let them know she is home safe and sound.

Sources: Bayworld Museum Marine Mammals
Don’t ever miss the Good Things. Download the Good Things Guy App now on Apple or Google
Do you have something to add to this story? Please share it in the comments or follow GoodThingsGuy on Facebook & Twitter to keep up to date with good news as it happens, or share your good news with us by clicking here or click the link below to listen to the Good Things Guy Podcast with Brent Lindeque – South Africa’s very own Good Things Guy. He’s on a mission to change what the world pays attention to, and he truly believes there’s good news around us. In the Good Things Guy podcast, you’ll meet these everyday heroes & hear their incredible stories:

Or watch an episode of Good Things TV below, a show created to offer South Africans balance in a world with what feels like constant bad news. We’re here to remind you that there are still so many good things happening in South Africa & we’ll leave you feeling a little more proudly South African.

Facebook Comments

About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *