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20 , May , 08

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Seal Alert-SA the next decade, Good and Evil, Light and Dark !

21 , Mar , 08
Dear All Cape Fur Seal Supporters,
Good and Evil, Light and Dark
       As I see it. The centre of our existence is our evolution around the sun. In this continual spinning, will come light and dark on the planet. Early civilizations portrayed these natural daily cycles with mystical figures of good and evil. Good being the sun, with all its life giving qualities and evil, being the darkness as the sun set.
       This is as clear as it gets.
       Over the past decade, I have chosen to become more seal than man. It has always profoundly disturbed me, why some individuals, organizations and governments support the dark side, the evil side, onto Cape fur seals, in this particular instance. Where does it come from, and how does one challenge it?
       Personally, I cannot wait to go down to the seals each morning, as just being around them fills my life with such joy and goodness, watching them be them.
       If two concessionaires (sealers) with rights granted by government where to go in sealers residential dwellings and club and stab their infants, due to the over-population of this town or the future impact this off-spring would have on the economy or that it creates clubbing jobs, as its motive. We would be mad for allowing it. So, why does the government not only allow, support but defend, such evil practices on seals?
       The only plausible answer, the Dark side.
       It is correct for evil to flourish, good men and women need to do nothing. But, what is the solution? A Namibian sealer once remarked, the moment these Seal Anti-hunt groups start going off in the media, his phone does not stop ringing with new orders. It’s true. After four decades of Anti-Seal hunt protests, the quotas have doubled and the multi-million dollar international Anti-Seal hunt ngo’s, have resorted to media-rising this evil.
       I do not see this as a solution. Nor, do I wish to be part of raising funds off dying seal’s plight. It is as exploitative as the sealers themselves.
      One of the most viewed clips on youtube, is that titled the Battle Of Kruger, the attempted predation of lions on a buffalo calf. Within a year, 68 million people had viewed this 8 minute videoclip. Another of a Panda cub sneezing which frightened its mother, although only a minute, drew 7 million viewers.
      Perhaps therefore the way to fight evil. Is to simple ignore it. Perhaps this explains why we still work in the day and sleep away the night.
      It is Seal Alert-SA’s intention to focus on the light, the good, the warmth of the sun. Just like, after the sun sets, darkness comes. I will accept that evil comes, but I will not lay down or do nothing. Instead, over the coming weeks, I will be moving my centre of rescue and rehabilitation of seals back to the two floating rafts and catamaran. Seals must at all times be free. Which will have a sheltered cave for the baby seals from the elements, an on-board splash poll, shared by the rest of the Seal Alert-SA’s 25-50 seal colony.
      Each aspect of my work with these seals will be video-taped 24-7, every day of the year. Rain, storms and in sunshine. With 4, 24-hour CCTV security camera’s, underwater camera, head-cam, night-vision camera and hand-held live action camera. During the course of each week, I will edit into a short video-clip the most amazing images you will ever see, weekly released on youtube in 1 – 6 minute short video clips, for you to share and enjoy. This will be an experience, never before seen. An amazing look into the life of Seals, during rehab, during rescue, at sea, underwater and on the open ocean.
      I know you will be hooked, and eagerly await the next week’s release.
      But, for evil not to flourish, good people such as yourselves need to do something as well. Firstly, in the case of Namibia and its slaughter of seals. Do nothing, ignore Namibia completely. Do not go there, or buy anything Namibian’s and use every opportunity to denounce this country. After all my high-level meetings presenting the various facts and reasons to end sealing, with government, Prime Minister’s, Minister’s and scientists and various articles in the media, the thing that really upset these evil doers, the most, is the www.boycottnamibia website. An instrument so simple, government even tried to have it internationally removed.
      Clearly evil hates being ignored.
      Secondly, I ask if you can do two further pro-active things. 1. Do not bother to send me emails, its time consuming and rather spend the time enjoying life and the great outdoors. 2. Watch the weekly short youtube video clips, share it amongst friends and family, and if you find it truly sensational, pop some cash in an envelop and send it to me. Which, if likened and viewed by many, should provide a world of opportunities to truly help these seals positively, forever and into the future. And don’t forget to send me your email address, so that I can inform you of the link to the next weekly seal videoclip.
      My postal address is. Seal Alert-SA, Box 221, Postnet, Hout Bay, 7806, South Africa.
PS – Within the next 4 weeks, the first clip will be ready.
Excited as ever, for the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA

Gone – From This To This, Within A Year

16 , Mar , 08
Dear Rt. Hon. Nahas Angula/Prime Minister of Namibia,

Namibia : Gone – From This To This, Within A Year

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Namibian Sealers Exterminate Namibia’s Largest Seal Colony, Whilst International Tourists Are Charged To View An Empty Beach
     Firstly I trust you are well.
     Namibia’s largest seal breeding colony, with 300 000 seals, remains active throughout the year. As you know, sealers exterminated this colony in July, 22 days into the 139 day sealing season in 2007, trying to fill the sustainable seal pup quota awarded by the Ministry of Fisheries.
     Fisheries Ministry states the seal cull is necessary to protect fish stocks, yet 90% of the cull, is based on baby seals who are still suckling mothers milk and are not fish-eaters. Killing these babies will have no impact on fisheries. Where is the sense in this policy?
     Prime Minister, you are on record during our meeting in July 2007, as stating I can have three days if necessary to debate the issue. Seal Alert was given no such opportunity in the Fisheries Ministry meeting in August. There too, it was minuted that we would re-meet within a few days. It has since been 7 months. The Ministry’s apparent head in the sand approach hoping Seal Alert will tire and go away, is some what in poor judgement. We need to resolve this.
     The upcoming annual Namibian Seal Cull in 2008. During a African television interview on Friday night on SABC Africa, of which I was a part of, I was quite shocked to hear Dr Moses Maurihungirire, Director of Marine Resources at the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries confirm that seal culling would go ahead. In addition some participants stated they believed the seal population should be reduced further by 50%, and thereafter a continued program of annual seal culls.
     If these are the sentiments within the Ministry, this is of grave concern. Seal Alert is not questioning Namibia right to utilize the seals, its questioning Namibia right to exterminate a seal species. The issues are not a better way to kill seals, but how many you are killing.
     With the deepest respect, Namibia’s constitution only allows the sustainable utilization of a marine resource consumptively or non-consumptively. To do otherwise would be illegal. The emphasis is on the word “sustainable”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “sustainable” as, “involving the use of natural products in a way that does not harm the environment and capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment”.
     Largest seal colony extermination, is surely unacceptable. How exactly did this happen, and who is responsible?
     Namibia’s pelagic fisheries have declined from 1,5 million tons to zero, is this ‘sustainable’ fishing?
     Namibian scientist, Dr BJ van Zyl stated in an IWMC Symposium on Culling Seals in Namibia : A Conservation Necessity, that and I quote, “The Marine Mammal Section of the Directorate of Resource Management has had the task of advising the Ministry on the management of the seal population, and of recommending harvesting levels for the different colonies. The ideal harvest levels for maintaining sustainable yields, recommend that pup harvests may be as high as 30% of the pups born on each seal colony“.
    When Namibia became independent in 1990, the pup population surveyed in 1989 was 184 537, divided amongst 17 seal colonies. The three largest colonies, where seal culling takes place, accounted for 122 018 pups (66% of the population). To which a “sustainable” pup cull quota of 25 000 was applied by the Ministry. This is below the 30% high or maximum sustainable yield (36 000). Records from the Ministry show, Sealers were only able to harvest, 9 790 pups.
    The only explanation for this shortfall of some 61% in filling the “sustainable” pup quota, was that even at this low number, sealers found insufficient numbers of pups to kill.
    It further implies, that this “maximum sustainable yield of 30% of the seal pups born”, is in fact, not sustainable, as the sealers are not even able to harvest 39% of this.
    16 years later, in 2006, when the Namibian Ministry announced a three year annual rolling seal cull quota (approved by Cabinet), in which it announced a 30% hike in pup quota over the previous year (65 000 to 85 000 pups). It stated that the Ministry relied upon the seal pup population survey conducted in December 2005. Which found, 205 396 seal pups on 24 colonies. With the three largest seal culling colonies accounting for 121 462 seal pups (59%). To which the Ministry applied an 85 000 pup quota, for these three colonies.
    Which is 70% of the pups born, and not the 30% recommended.
    Based on Dr BJ van Zyl statement at the Ministry, 30% (maximum sustainable yield) of 121 462 pups would allow Namibia to issue a seal pup quota under the constitution of Namibia, of 36 000 for 2006.
    In complete disregard of the Constitution, it awarded a pup quota, at least double the sustainable recommended quota, when it awarded a pup quota of 85 000, for three years, rolling annually starting in 2006.
    I trust you will see the seriousness of these actions and their unlawfulness under the Constitution of Namibia?
    The following year, Minister Abraham Iyambo signed a letter on the 13 November 2007, to the Netherlands Minister Gerda Verburg, that stated and I quote, “According to our surveys 120 000 pups (born December 2006)”.
    Clearly with the seal population in decline by a massive 44% over the previous year (205 396 to 120 000 pups). Under the Constitution Namibia loses all rights to harvest or cull seals, as the population is in severe decline.
    Instead the Ministry of Fisheries announces only a 6% reduction in pup quota of 5000 pups, and awards an 80 000 pup quota for 2007 (85 000 to 80 000).
    Ignoring this decline (which is unethical), but if based purely on this number, with no comparison to population trends of past. The 30% high sustainable pup quota, would have consisted of the following. 120 000 pups surveyed in 2006. Of which about 60% occurs on the three sealing colonies. Which implies that this number is, 72 000 pups. 30% of this, would have allowed the Ministry (ignoring the decline), of a pup quota of 21 600, for the 2007 pup sealing season.
    Instead it awarded a pup quota of 80 000 pups, nearly quadruple, the sustainable yield for these seal colonies, according to your own Ministry and scientists.
    The result, largest seal colony exterminated.
    In reality, since Namibia’s independence in 1990, although the seal population is some 44% lower (205 396 – 120 000). Pup quotas have risen 240% (25 000 to 85 000). On actual pups killed, it has risen over 700% (9 790 to 77 800).
    Clearly this is in gross violation of Namibia’s own Constitution which allows only for the sustainable utilization of a marine resource.
    As Seal Alert-SA is not privy to the resultants of the December 2007 pup count, we can only surmise that as fisheries and fish stocks is still depleted, that the seal population would continue with this downward trend and reveal a pup population, even lower than the 120 000 pups surveyed in December 2006, according to the Ministry.
    Constitutionally it is imperative that Namibia publicly announces an end to its seal culling policy, economically it is already directly jeopardizing the N$ 2 million earned via the 70 000 tourists now unable to view the seals (non-consumptively) at Namibia’s once, largest mainland seal colony – Cape Cross.
    If you as the Prime Minister of Namibia, are still in any doubt as to the seriousness or sustainability of Namibia’s seal cull policy, please consider the following. Of the 120 000 seal pups surveyed on all seal colonies in Namibia, born in December 2006. Namibian Fisheries scientist, Dr Carola Kirchner, gave a presentation where she had found the average pup natural mortality since the 1970s (1972 – 2006), to be on average, 44%, prior to the start of sealing season (January to July). Bearing in mind latest scientific research by Namibian scientists conducted over the last 5 years, shows natural pup mortality has increased to 62% over this same period.
    Subtract 44% (Dr Kirchner’s average since 1970s) natural mortality from the 120 000 pups (latest survey). This leaves 67 200 seal pups possibly alive, amongst all 24 seal colonies in Namibia, by start of the annual sealing season on July 1, 2008. To which Namibia has announced in 2006, a three year rolling quota of 85 000 pups per year. A quota, that exceeds the number of pups alive. Bear in mind, this illustration covers the entire Namibia seal population. When in reality, it is far worse, as sealing only takes place on the three largest seal colonies where 60% of the pup production occurs.
    If this reality, is taken into account, 120 000 pups (total pup population 2006 in Namibia on 24 seal colonies). Of which 60% occurs on the 3 sealing colonies, which is 72 000 pups, born December 2006 (we have no data for 2007). Of these, 44% will die from natural causes, leaving at best, 40 000 pups alive by start of sealing on July 1, 2008. To which if the Ministry awards an 85 000 pup quota (2006) or an 80 000 pup quota (2007). This quota will not only see the complete extermination of all seal pups from these three largest mainland seal colonies, representing 60% of Namibia seal population, but in fact exceed it by double.
    Clearly the situation is out of control. I would appreciate your position on this.
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA

There Is An Old Saying; “Give A Starving Person a Fish and you Feed Him for a Day – Teach Him How to Fish and you Feed Him for a Life-Time”

15 , Dec , 07

Dear All Cape Fur Seal Supporters,

Firstly, a huge thank you (were it not for your generosity and kindness I dont know what I would have done all these years) to Steve, Gin, Fran, Lara, Berrick, Les, Marchig Trust, Anastasya, Sue, Nikki, Judy, Colette and Heidi for their offers of financial help and kind words. Many have written to offer help or try arrange volunteers, and as such I think I should explain in more detail the difficulty of the task at hand.

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Two fleeing refugee pups rescued take comfort in each others flippers

In the case with these fleeing seal refugees from the Namibian Killing fields, this saying can never be truer. Few people truly understand the carnage that the act of seal clubbing in a wild colony causes to almost the entire seal species. For these seal pups born in December on a colony, are dependent upon that colony (like it is their own little country) for that survival. Like you and I, if we were to be forcibly displaced from our country, we too would have no employment or means to suddenly support ourselves in another foreign country. The same applies to these Namibian seals. As they nurse and grow for up to 3 years, with a year being the least. They learn to progress from the colony into the surrounding world, first foraging nearby and later a maximum of 200 km from the colony. In these carefully developed learning steps they learn where and how to hunt, and if the environment can support them – survive. It is simply not a case of putting a seal in the sea and he will go out and find food. It just does not work that way. Clubbing 75% of the seal species, daily for half a year, forces even the most bonded to the colony, to separate from nursing cow and flee. They are in fact, refugees fleeing from a war zone.

With over 120 000 pups involved on a clubbing quota of 80 000 plus, most will either be clubbed to death or be separated and starve to death on the colony. But – thousands escape and flee for all they are worth. Thousands of these 7 month old baby seals begin the journey south. Their chances are indeed slim. Most only know how to suckle and have an interest in exploring things that move in the sea. Very few have learnt to bite or swallow something large down their throat. It is unknown how many thousands are actually involved, as it has never been scientifically documented or even admitted, nor will it ever be researched. But, within two months of the start of sealing season, this mass exodus begins, year after year, decade after decade. It is the part of “sustainable use of wildlife” and sealing, nobody wants to talk about.

Being based in Hout Bay, near the tip of Africa, I am basically situated at the end of a very long swim for these baby seals starving to death as they make the 1600 km journey south. These pups move singularly, trying to hunt at night and then hauling out at first light to warm up and rest. 300 km out of Cape Town the coastline is barren, not inhabited by humans and desert. Coming ashore here after each night’s forage goes by undetected, it is unknown how many thousands starve to death or succumb to the cold before they reach the public beaches nearer Cape Town.

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On the right hand raft cows abort 5 pups in last week – Omega just released, joins the weanlings from Namibia. His size almost twice theirs of the same age

Why do they flee south, for no reason, except they have no local hunting ground (it was chased out of them), and simply keep moving and moving until dead or they find a source of survival. If you feed one of these seal pups one meal, they just remain, tied to this location. Hence their continued journey south, as most do not find food.

It is at this point, within 300km of Cape Town, that the public walking their dogs begins to find tiny starving seal pups curled up on the beach, which continues daily from October until December, where by this point, all would have either survived or died. Most of the public encountering these seal pups assume its normal and that the starving pup is just resting. A few that do realise, soon open their eyes, and find seal pups daily on their respective beaches. A healthy pup’s coat is an oily grey, these malnutrition pups are clearly identifiable by their much lighter underbelly and pathetic bone-thin condition. They are completely helpless with no chance of surival. They are thousands in the process of dying.

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Our latest awash rock baby pup and some weanlings recently released nw being treated in the wild

I dont know how many that have fled Namibia reach to within 300 km of Cape Town. On the calls I personally receive, bearing in mind my number is not listed or advertised, the number each year, must involved a few thousand.

The difficulty encountered in seal rescue of these refugee pups is monumental. The public is not able to assist besides reporting. Firstly in that if the seal is approached without experience it will either defend itself and they have a nasty razor sharp teeth bite or will simply flee back to the water to haul-out somewhere further down the coast. This makes responding difficult, for if you get a call-out, drop everything you are doing (the seals already in your care) and you leave immediately, it will still take over an hour to reach the location. Bearing in mind one can get 5 calls for seals in a single day in various directions all about the same time.With the pup either fleeing into the sea from further harassment or alternatively if too weak, go into convulsion from perceived threat and die before I can get there. Often hordes of beach-goers will crowd around this wild dying pup and the resultant infringement leading to stress, organ failure and death. More than 50% of the pups captured will die from the stress of this ordeal on the journey back to the centre if not done correctly. You are in fact dealing with a seal close to collapsed organ failure, so weak are these seals, that many leave to try hunting one more night, and simply die as they swim, from the cold. I have witnessed this many times, the last just last night.

In addition, behavioural wise, these pups are not programmed to eat or hunt during day-light hours, and so dont respond to tossed fish nearby in most cases, yet at sunset would respond. But at night-time few calls come in.

The next issue, becomes facilitates, our current two pool centre could accommodate a maximum of 20 seals. Personally I think I have received over 300 calls reporting stranded seal pups in the last 60 days. The calls just do not stop coming in. The greater the public awareness, the greater the reported sightings. I would estimate a number of between 250 -500 seal pups get reported on by the public, but there are many stretches of coastline inaccessible where these pups would haul-out as well. The difficulty is further compounded in identifying them, as they are light grey in colour (from malnutrition) and therefore are well camouflaged in the rocks.

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the daily tube-feeding in the centre and in the wild

It is all very well for the thousands of public walking the beaches to report dying seals – but, who carries the cost and burden of their rescue? The Namibian or South African governments refuse to, as does the average public, even the public reporting the dying seal? Basically, South Africa and Namibia expects Seal Alert-SA to do the work and fund it all.

If one wanted to do Seal Rescue, just for these fleeing pups from Namibia over this two/three month period, excluding all the other year round rescues. Lets assume the rescue involves taking in 500 pups. One would need to accumulate the following fish supplies. Each seal pup will consume 24 pilchards twice a day minimum or 48 per day or over 4kg. If rehabbed in the centre, most will not be able to eat whole fish, and if forced, will convolt and die from the stress of forced handling and being force feed 24-48 individual fish. If tube-fed, the heads and tails, would have to be cut-off over 750 000 individual fish each month, before liquidising. Rehab could take anything from 3 – 12 months. Over 12 000 boxes of 5kg bait/pilchards would need to be purchased, each month or about R400 000 in fish cost purchases a month. For the rehab, a budget of R1.2 million to R4.6 million.

When I started a 5kg box of pilchards was less than R10, now even scarcer its R34, and at most times there is simply no stock to purchase.

So according to the Namibian government, Albert Brink and his two seal-clubbing partners, seal clubbing must stay because it creates jobs and R5 million in clubbing 80 000 pups, but for this, these same people cause people like ourselves to try and find R5 million simply to help and save 500 seal pups, of their trouble causing misery.

Then there is an additional problem, as most of these pups are still suckling, they accept the tube-feeding well, and quickly learn this is their sole source of survival. As our work with baby seal pups has shown, they even stay on the tube in the wild for up to 2 years. Even other seals eating (the dead or defrosted fish) does nothing to change this behaviour. The only thing that changes their behaviour, is when recovered, their natural ability to explore, and then chase moving objects, turns into biting and eventually eating. But, it is a process that takes months, and it is an environment that a seal centre cannot duplicate or offer.

Fattening up a starving seal and them tossing her or him back into the sea, completely ignores the understanding that these seals need to first re-learn their new hunting grounds and find a suitable colony nearby. Once they do this, they then naturally return to the wild

This is why I have urgently appealed for funding to open up the centre to the sea. The seals must never be captive, they must always be able to go directly into the sea. Yet, even this is not without its problems, as by having an open facility, other larger seals, some even healthy, start to compete with the ones you are trying to save. Although I have experienced a natural balance develops and things do not get completely out of hand, but either way it is a very difficult task.

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Omega our baby pup now released, rehabbed in the centre the past 12 months

The baby seal pups that start washing off their awash rock colonies, the following month (December), are a whole different ball game, with up to 40 000 in the Cape either drowning or washing ashore, although the alive ones appear to reflect similar numbers as the weanling pups from Namibia.

So how does one person possibly cope with a sudden influx of 1000 seals, where everybody phoning you for help but nobody is funding you? Which seals do you save and which do you ignore?

The problem, as with all things is funding, and with regard to rescue, I have experienced that unless you campaign continuously for funding on a full-time basis, you have not got a hope in hell. On this subject, how does one compete with the large organizations appealing for funding for their various campaigns, when they have no rescue or rehab costs and raise millions and millions of dollars for campaigns just to raise awareness of certain issues. They have cleverly dubbed “Save a Seal” into what is actually just an awareness campaign to stop clubbing. The public appears to buy-into this type of mass media, and give millions and millions for campaigns that do not actual save a single species from physically dying. To even attempt to compete, one would have to stop rescue and campaign full-time, but then who will physically save the seals?

Of all the big ngo’s only Seashepherd, Marchig Trust, Beauty Without Cruelty and Winscome Kindness Trust have ever helped.

The final problem, is that there is just insufficient fish out there. In Namibia quotas from dropped from 1.5 million to zero, South Africa is experiencing similar situations from overfishing. Its only going to get worse and worse.

In the above context, the only solution, is to not give-up, and in the very least give these fleeing refugee seal pups a safe place to haul-out in their hour of need, perhaps a meal or two, and the support on their terms to keep trying. Seal Rescue in the full-term sense would have to stop, focus would shift to disentanglement and if possible teaching them the hard-way to learn to eat whole fish and hunt in their new area.

This would be their only chance in a mass rescue scenario.

 

The above is the lower pier I would like walled and a ramp or steps into the sea. This will provide safe haul-out for 100 plus.

Hence why I appeal desperately for the outside pier to be walled off, a ramp into the sea and a roller-door from the centre onto the pier. As a one-man operation this would offer some solution to the seals fleeing the carnage in Namibia, and at the end of the day, hope is everything.

Remembering as well, there are thousands more dying of starvation at the various colonies. The above fleeing pups who strand on the beaches are not from these local colonies. In the local context seals born on colonies, who are unable to find food simply remain around the colony until they die. Its a nightmare of never ending proportions. In each case man-kind’s greed has a hand in these seals suffering.

It is one of the worst things to witness, watching a young terrified pup struggling to survive, desperate for just one meal, trying every night, hoping he or she will get lucky and find something to eat. Having eaten nothing for days or weeks. The worst is seeing them die or find them floating dead near the spot where they last hauled out. All it initially takes is a single meal and handful of fish, but when added to the thousands, it becomes a financial impossibility for one person unless, each and everyone of us tries to help. Then maybe then, there would be more hope.

I can tell you it is not a good situation to bear witness to this, it is even worse when you get to rub your hands over their furry life and the instant response you receive.

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Starving weanling being fed whilst Mumkin now 2 years old looks on

Therefore I ask that we all consider the above. I have committed my life and full-time to help them and I put whatever spare thousands I have each month in saving their precious lives. We urgently need like minded people to do the same. Please do not ask me to go on the fund-raising campaign trail, my place is with the seals, but I cannot do it alone and I have absolutely no time to do both, rescue and fund-raise. I have zero time to go out and appeal for funds or handle admin, because that time will cost a seal its life.

Therefore please help raise funding if you can, otherwise I completely understand.
My banking details once again below.

Seal Alert-SA Postal Address.
SEAL ALERT-SA, BOX 221, POSTNET,
HOUT BAY, 7872, SOUTH AFRICA

HEREWITH IS FURTHER DETAILS FOR BANK TRANSFERS:
ZAR is South AfricanRand

More information to be able to send the money via internet:

SEAL ALERT-SA ACC : 911 2201 321
BRANCH CODE : 632 005
SWIFT CODE : ABSAZAJJ
BANK : ABSA

SA NAT.CLEARING CODE

BIC: (SWIFT-CODE) ABSAZAJJ
Bank name : ABSA
Address : DELPHI ARCH OFFICE PARK, RAATS DRIVE, TABLE VIEW
City/code : TABLE VIEW, 7439
Country : South Africa

For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
27-21-790 8774

Seal Alert-SA Bursting At the Seams – When the Impossibility Becomes the Reality

8 , Dec , 07

Dear All Cape Fur Seal Supporters,

Seal Alert-SA Bursting At the Seams – When the Impossibility Becomes the Reality

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21 rescued weanlings from Namibia and 12 little tiny baby seal pups

I trust you all are well. It has been almost two months since my last update and it has been a hectic two months at that. After my meeting with the Prime Minister of Namibia and their follow-up meeting with the Fisheries Ministry, there has been complete silence. Seal Alert-SA has since presented two damning reports to the EU Commissioners and European Food Safety Review taking place. I suspect Namibia is awaiting the outcome of this review, before agreeing to further discussions, but as expected, sealers charging into 75% of the Cape fur seal population, which they claim to number 700 000 seals, swinging away at nursing baby seal pups, will and does have its knock-on effects. Effects that physically displace an entire generation of new-born’s causing them to flee like refugees from a war-torn country.

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It is these effects, the separation of tens of thousands of nursing baby seals from their mothers, that has become my sole nightmare for the past two months. The small centre we have built, would be soon put to the ultimate test. From the 5th October, daily reports started coming in of starving baby seals fleeing the Namibian killing fields coming ashore. I could already foresee the pattern, the closer one got up the coast to Namibia, the greater the number of reported strandings, soon they would reach Cape Town, 1600 kilometres away.

So it started, with numbers estimated in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, needing help, I was powerless to attempt only single responses per day. Some days even three seals were rescued. With as many as 5 calls in a single day. Bart Smither’s Wildlife Seal program on the Namibian clubbing shown on SABC 50/50, did little to help matters, as this just meant, more and more people called to report a dying seal.

Within a few days, I was reaching crisis proportions. The workload was massive, even getting up at 5am and returning home at 11pm, was proving an impossibility. 21 pups require massive care. I was cutting the heads and tails off over 1000 pilchards before liquidising, which alone was taking hours. Strangely this year, only two of the 21, would eat whole fish, the rest all demanded, like little babies, to be each tube fed, fighting over the tube. The pools and centre had to be cleaned three times a day, just to deal with all the excrement.

On top of this, a month pre-mature, 12 new-born babies arrived in the most frail of conditions. I now had 35 seals in the centre, and a further 15-20 outside. I faced a financial nightmare. These 35 to rehab, which could even take up to 12 months to rehab. I would be forced to purchase between 400 and 800 boxes of 5kg pilchards a month, costing between R15-30 000. If successfully rehabbed for the year R200-400 000.

To compound matters furthers, the pilchards caught in spring are in spawn, and are rejected by the pups. In addition, these fish have very little oil or fat content and appear to taste bitter. This is hugely problematic, as you are required to feed even greater quantities, which causes these seals to have consent diarrhoea. Pilchards caught in winter are better, but as the resource is overfished, there is just no means of buying stock a few months old. Even a request to the CEO of the largest pilchard processing group and quota holder, revealed that they themselves are forced to import over 7 million cartons of pilchards from Chile.

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Clearly an individual cannot be expected to cope solely with this massive onslaught. For years Nelda and I, have funded 90% of our own rescues. Of the 33 seals taken in at the centre, one member of the public donated R100 and another R500.

The situation reached crisis proportions. The new-born babies coming in, if they are not crying or do not instantly form a bond and start suckling, they will reject care and die. As expected, one by one, they started to die, after a week, I was left with the smallest, a sole survivor. Compounded to this the weather turned extreme, with massive winds and very cold temperatures, costing the life of even one of the weanlings.

18.jpg

The end for me was in sight. I knew I could not possibly afford to continue for the month of December, which was also the start of pupping season, where thousands of babies would wash ashore.

It was heartbreaking to come to the conclusion to stop the rehab, and release the entire group. Seal pups that had formed instant bonds, and that were so thankful and full of hope to be given a second chance in their first year of life. They truly loved their centre, and it was an amazing experience coming into a seal colony each morning. One morning I loaded all remaining 19 into a crate and trolleyed them down the pier for their premature release. Confused and terrified, it broke my heart. Taking each one out and tube-feeding before release, was the hardest. Some headed out to sea immediately, others did just not want to leave and others scattered out in the rocks below. Three pups gave up, and died in the cold waters, and further two started dying and forced me to re-capture them, and take them back to the centre, where they too died within the next 48 hours.

 19.jpg

Of the original 19 released, 7 have chosen to stay, and which I will continue their rehab in the wild, along with Mumkin, who after two years, refuses to leave. Since starting seal rescue in 1999, I have never been forced to do something like this, but there was no alternative. My appeal for 500 seal supporters worldwide to contribute a regular monthly amount of $25, was met with a pledge from 5.

As I have been financially forced to stop, for the first time, I have also had to stop responding to the daily calls streaming in from the public, reporting more and more seal pups coming ashore. I now no longer even return their calls. In the last few days I estimate a further 40 odd pups, with no hope of survival, would have just slowly died on the public beaches from stress and starvation.

Bearing in mind, the calls I receive are just the tip of the ice-berg.

What would have helped tremendously, if I had had the funds to open the four-walled centre onto the pier outside, and the construction of a ramp into the sea. This would a given the 19 seals a fighting chance, as it would have been a slow release, and one in which they would have been able on their own to return to the centre, on their own free will, if they could not survive. But again, there were no funds available to accomplish this.

So it appears the impossibility has become the reality. Rescue for me and the seals has ended. I have pledged to see out the rehab of the 7, and to get JT and Omega the babies from last year back into the wild, and to see through the rehab of the sole surviving baby for this year, as well as being there for Mumkin. These 11 seals will still cost me, over R10 000 a month or R120 000 for the coming year, which I hope Nelda and I, will somehow be able to fund.

After this, whatever funds I have spare, I would like to complete the outside of the centre, so that in the very least, the dying seals will have a secure place, protected in their hour of dying need.

So, to all of you, that have helped save the lives of so many seals to date, my deepest, deepest thanks. Over 5000 seal lives were saved, the size of a small seal colony.

If any of you have the means to contribute further, my banking details are enclosed below.

Seal Alert-SA Postal Address. SEAL ALERT-SA, BOX 221, POSTNET, HOUT BAY, 7872, SOUTH AFRICA
HEREWITH IS FURTHER DETAILS FOR BANK TRANSFERS:

ZAR is South AfricanRand

More information to be able to send the money via internet:

SEAL ALERT-SA ACC : 911 2201 321
BRANCH CODE : 632 005
SWIFT CODE : ABSAZAJJ
BANK : ABSA

SA NAT.CLEARING CODE

BIC: (SWIFT-CODE) ABSAZAJJ
Bank name : ABSA
Address : DELPHI ARCH OFFICE PARK, RAATS DRIVE, TABLE VIEW
City/code : TABLE VIEW, 7439
Country : South Africa

For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
www.sealalert.org
27-21-790 8774

Pics of Seals Re: Lastest Update : Good ‘Seal Ambassador’ Taken-Out by Marine and Coastal Management Official

21 , Sep , 07

Dear All Seal Supporters,

    Still no word or reply from the Department of Environmental Affairs regarding the department’s position or fate of this amazing seal. All that we know is that Pietie the Bull Seal loved by everybody who encountered him, has simply vanished.

    I believe the pics tell the full, if not sad story.

Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA

Lastest Update : Good ‘Seal Ambassador’ Taken-Out by Marine and Coastal Management Official

20 , Sep , 07

Seal Alert-SA Press Release, September 20, 2007

     Thank you to those that have written to the DG. Mystery regarding the sudden disappearance of this good seal ambassador deepens. Blitz the seal’s keeper/guardian is deeply distraught and many who were opposed to his feeding of this bull seal, feel threatened that he may seek revenge in a violent or criminal way.

     There is clearly double standards at play here. Big white-owned businesses who exploit the seals and tourists alike, by charging them a fee to see the seals on the nearby offshore island seal colony (the seal operators) who contribute nothing to seal conservation from their multi-million dollar profits, were the loudest group condemning the enterprising activities of Blitz with this seal.

     In turn Marine and Coastal Management has doubled standards writing into law in 2000 making it a criminal offence to feed a seal, yet permit 16 white-shark cage diving operators to each take out 25kg of bait, with which to tease man-eating sharks, for the pure pleasure of exploiting both shark and tourists alike to the tune of millions in profits annually.

     Yet when a disadvantaged member of the locally community, who has been forced to experience the over-exploitation of the fisheries he grew up in, attempts to earn a similar and legal means of generating an income for him and his family in a sustainable way. Suddenly everybody opposes him.

     Is the real reason behind this seals removal, this competition factor Blitz and his seal, might have on their existing multi-million profits?

     The fact of the matter, is this seal has been around for years, and there is no recorded incident of this seal every being aggressive or biting anyone, although has been repeatedly provoked. Whilst ordinarily I agree wildlife should not be fed, this was a unique and special circumstance and relationship. A good ambassadorial activity in the making for both seals and humans.

     Mike Meyer the MCM official alleged to be involved in removing the seal and lethally injecting it. Is well know for his disregard for these seals welfare. He has repeated blown-up whales that could have been floated off stranded beaches, and has a long history of destroying so-called “problem” seals. I personally have witnessed this many times. In almost every case, he acted without authority, he was also involved in permitting a seal exporter to capture and retain live seals in very small crates, and then assisted in the cover-up and death of some of these seals. MCM officials had allegedly told Blitz that they would shoot the seal if he did not stop feeding it.

    Seal Alert-SA contacted Mike Meyer, where he told me, he had nothing to do with the removal or killing of this endangered seal. Although he knows about the seal, he claims he did not kill it or remove, and has no idea who did. This is somewhat strange, as another MCM official who works at the Head Office in the Financial department, told a trader in Hout Bay yesterday, that Mike Meyer came and captured the seal and injected it.

    What is disturbing is that if this indeed happened, and now MCM Officials are covering it up, then its clearly wrong. Secondly a local community forum, representative of the community, harbour and police had discussed this Blitz/Pietie situation and had come up with a plan to place a fence around Blitz and the seal. To allow him to continue earning an income whilst the public remained safe. Last, from my experience with thousands of bulls, at this time of year, bulls return to offshore colonies, living of their fat reserves, whilst they fight for and command harems, who then mate in December and afterwards begin the moult of the old coat, and by March disperse to new hunting grounds. 

     Nature in all probability will have ensured Pietie the bull seal stays away from the harbour for months until March, where upon in all likelihood this seal will have changed his behaviour, forgotten the harbour and remained a wild seal. 

     Seal Alert-SA believes the authorities need to actively engaged in assisting the previously disadvantaged community, who cannot afford multi-million dollar tourists boats to take tourists to see the seals. Crime is at an all time high, as is unemployment.

     It is therefore disturbing that such a secret activity took place, if indeed it did. The question is did it, and what is the departments position on this, as Blitz is currently attempting to replace Pietie, by encouraging a younger seal to take his place.

For the Seals

Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA

27-21-790 8774

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