Mtunzi, the young South African Cape fur seal estimated to be a year old, has been relocated to Port Elizabeth after he was found stranded at the Mtunzi Park beach in Scottburgh last month, reports South Coast Herald.
The seal was taken to uShaka Sea World on November 16 and underwent a full medical examination.
While no abnormalities were picked up, the seal needed to gain weight before he was declared fit for release.
“It is common for rescued seals to spend their first few days in rehab resting and refusing any food offered,” said Ann Kunz of Sea World.
“Fortunately, this was not the case with young Mtunzi, who has a healthy appetite and started eating with great gusto within hours of being admitted.”
Mtunzi gained 2.3kgs during his sojourn at Sea World and his meals including hake, maasbanker, pilchards, corvina, and squid.
“He is one of the smallest rescued seals I have cared for in my 26 years of working with seals,” said senior behaviourist Hayley Kim Tennant.
“It seemed almost impossible that such a tiny seal could have swum all the way from his home range in the Eastern Cape to KZN, without getting into more serious trouble than being undernourished, underweight, [and] dehydrated with a few cuts and grazes.”
Mtunzi flew as a VIP British Airways passenger from King Shaka Airport to Bayworld in Port Elizabeth last Friday.
The seal was transported in a specially designed crate for comfort.
He was welcomed by staff at Bayworld who will be keeping an eye on him for a few days before the release.
“He will be flipper-tagged prior to release enabling local scientists to identify him and monitor his progress over the next few years should he be spotted,” said Ms Kunz.
Tennant described Mtunzi as “a charming, feisty and inquisitive little fellow”.
“It was a privilege for the team to care for him and we trust that he will thrive once he is released and will never again venture out of his home range.”