Dolphin Marine Magic (DMM) is looking to commence a study into the seal stranding events following an unprecedented number of reports regarding juvenile Long Nosed Fur Seals this winter, with some animals already taken into care while others continue to be monitored in situ.
Veterinarian Dr Duan March says “There are a lot of animals around this year, but so far only two have needed to come into care in our area. Unfortunately one died but the other one, named Skip by our staff, is doing well at the moment. He is not out of the woods yet, but we are optimistic.” Despite an increase in numbers this year, the appearance of these animals along the coastline is nothing new. “We see these animals arrive around this time every year. They present in a range of body conditions, between 5 and 10 kg, and often with small wounds or shark bites. Given the pupping season for these animals is around November, arrival up here in June places them around either 7 or 19 months in age. Some animals we can age based on the appearance of their teeth, but once the teeth are fully erupted and have some wear and tear on them, it is hard to correlate that appearance with a specific age.”
The outcome for these animals is anything but certain. Legislation in QLD prevents the release of these animals once taken into care and of the animals where rehabilitation is attempted, the success rate varies. “Generally if we can get them through the first 24 hours we have a pretty good chance. When they first come in they are generally metabolically exhausted, and we need to be really careful how to proceed. Sometimes the stress of catching an animal to give it medication can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.” Whilst it may not be good news for all of these seals, the increased number of animals this season provides an opportunity to answer some of the questions that DMM staff have been thinking about for a while now such as; where are these animals coming from and where do they go post release?”
To answer these questions DMM is looking to partner with Customised Animal Tracking Solutions (CATS) and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to place satellite tags on the animals that are released to analyse biological samples to determine the colony of origin and recent dietary activity of these animals. “This information will be extremely useful not only in making sure that the individual animals that come into care receive the most appropriate treatment and hence have the best chance at a successful recovery, but it will also tell us if these animals are arriving up here as part of a natural re-seeding process for this species or if they are “aliens” deposited here as the result of misadventure such as extreme weather events.” Either way Skip the seal sure appreciates the help!
Author: Dr Duan March – Veterinarian