Brutus soaking up the sun when the SPCA arrived.
Supplied/Cape of Good Hope SPCA
- A string from a sucking dummy sweet was wrapped around Brutus the seal’s neck.
- The SPCA received a distress call about an adult male seal with a neck “adornment” in Kalk Bay harbour in Cape Town.
- Brutus returned to the ocean after the SPCA freed him of his entanglement.
An adult Cape fur seal showed up at the Kalk Bay Harbour this week with an entanglement that was “extremely” tight around its neck.
On Friday, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA reported that it had received a distress call from a resident who explained that the male seal, known as Brutus, was wearing what the caller described as a neck “adornment”.
SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abraham said they dispatched the Wildlife Department supervisor, Jon Friedman, to go and inspect the seal.
“This appeared to be something new, not the usual fishing gut or plastic box binding we find ensnaring seals,” Friedman said.
A piece of plastic was all he could see as the binding was already tied, embedding itself into the seal’s thick neck blubber.
Friedman said that upon closer inspection and examination, the item appeared to be the string and the plastic base of a children’s sucking dummy sweet.
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According to the SPCA, Kalk Bay’s harbour seals are “huge, old, very grumpy, very strong and dangerous”. But left unchecked, an ensnarement can quickly become life-threatening to a seal.
Describing the delicate rescue operation, Friedman said: “Approached while still in his morning slumber in the sun on the harbour pier, a quick movement was required to get our seal hook under the line to cut it before annoying the sleeping seal.”
Brutus the seal.
The piece of string that was entangled around Brutus’s neck.
He added that Brutus could sense the disturbance, suddenly opening a wary eye and regarding his “helper” with disdain. Still, he seemed to understand the objective, the SPCA said.
“He drew himself up on his fore-flippers and yawned a big yawn, exposing the entanglement that was now noted to be already cutting into his flesh.
“The plastic shape of the item provided a handy hoop through which to snag the cutting hook, and in a swift movement, the line snapped free, and the entanglement slipped off,” Friedman added.
The SPCA said the problem was indeed the plastic base of a children’s sucking dummy sweet.
“No less a danger to marine life than fishing line or plastic binding and a reminder to us all that anything with a hoop shape that is discarded into nature presents a possible ensnarement risk to a wild animal. Being a harbour seal exposes you to a life of easy food (fish scraps) and fast dangers,” Abraham said.
The SPCA said Brutus was unharmed in the process and swam back into the ocean shortly after. It is unclear how long the seal had been entangled.
Abraham asked the public not to discard fishing gear (hooks, lines and sinkers), plastic wrapping from boxes, and other floating marine debris (e.g. plastic bags) near where seals can be found.
“We advise all harbour visitors and harbour businesses to please enjoy these vital recreational areas responsibly, to dispose of hooped items, plastic packaging, fishing line and used fishing hooks in bins provided, especially on windy days where they can otherwise be blown into the sea,” said Abraham.