Tarwin is a wild born seal, first found ashore on June 16, 1998, on a dairy farm near the town of Tarwin, six kilometres away from the nearest ocean at Anderson’s Inlet.
It’s not known how she got there, but local residents said at the time that she seemed to be the same seal that had previously been seen begging from fishermen at Inverloch.
She was brought to Melbourne Zoo for a Vet check and was found to be underweight but without any visible injuries, so it was decided that she be returned to the wild. After a brief recovery period at the Zoo, she was released at Seal Rocks, the breeding colony near Phillip Island.
Only a week later, Tarwin was found on the beach at Ocean Grove. She had lost a considerable amount of weight since the release, indicating that she was not feeding successfully, so it was decided that she needed to come into the Zoo’s care.
Seal Keeper Mark says that although Tarwin has always been an active and playful seal, now that she is a bit older she is somewhat more laid back.
‘She is very good natured and has a large repertoire of trained behaviours. She cooperates very willingly with us when she is due to provide blood samples, in exchange for fish and patting!’
Mark explains that ‘We need to test her blood a couple of times a year to monitor the dose rate of a medication she is given daily to manage her epilepsy. She was diagnosed with this in 2004 and is being treated successfully with a drug very similar to that used for human patients.
‘She is not as food motivated as the other seals and tends to chew her fish instead of swallowing it whole, which is unusual for a seal. Her favourites are Pilchards and Tommy Ruff.’