Sunday, July 27, 2008

Shark Chronicles 017 - Seal scat collection

The first time you cruise around Seal Island and get a good smell of the 4,500 seals your nose wrinkles but eventually you get used to the smell.

Just recently SAMPLA scientist Stephen Swanson and two students (Antonin and Sophie), together with the help of the Mossel Bay Police went to the island in order to collect scat samples for Marine and Coastal Management. Marine and Coastal Management uses the scat samples to determine the health as well as the diet of the resident seals. Determining the health of the seals is important because in such a dense population of animals disease and parasites could spread quickly.

Stepping on the island there was a small, smelly stampede: thousands of seals fled to the water for refuge from these intruders. Others crowed around the far side of the island while a few individuals stood their ground and challenged the SAMPLA team for the right to stay on the island.

The team tried to keep their distance from the animals because such a large animal could do some real damage to a small person if it felt threatened.

While walking around the island looking for suitable scat samples the team kept their eyes open for wounds that were caused by sharks or people. One bull had a noticeable wound in its back flippers caused by a shark, and one female had a line around her neck.

However, other than that the seals seemed to be in good shape from what the team could see. Now we wait for the analyses from the MCM lab.

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