Wild Seal back in the Water after short stay at Melbourne Zoo

21 May 2020

A young seal has been given a second chance at a healthy life in the wild after treatment and rehabilitation at Melbourne Zoo.

The Australian Fur Seal was rescued by Melbourne Zoo’s Marine Response Unit after it was found injured and malnourished at Port Fairy in south-western Victoria.

Marine Response Unit coordinator Mark Keenan says the seal was carefully monitored for several days before the decision was made to intervene.

"Its left eye was injured, and it was rubbing it consistently on a rock,” Mr Keenan said. “It was a skinny, young seal and looked to be in quite some pain."

The seal – which is just under 18 months old - was brought to Melbourne Zoo veterinary centre for treatment, and spent a fortnight rehabilitating in the care of the Zoo vet team.

During its stay, the seal put on about seven kilograms and vets were able to successfully treat its eye injury.

Melbourne Zoo Head Vet Dr Michael Lynch said staff fed the seal fish via a special tube to prevent the seal from associating humans with food.

“It was vital to keep the seal as wild as possible, so we were careful to minimise our contact with the seal during its time at Melbourne Zoo,” Dr Lynch said.

Melbourne Zoo worked closely with wildlife authorities at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the Victorian Fisheries Authority to ensure the seal has been given the best chance of thriving in the wild.

After two weeks of care, the Marine Response Unit and Parks Victoria staff released the seal back into the water at Cape Otway.

Rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing a wild seal is incredibly satisfying," Mr Keenan said.

"It is exciting that we have got it to this point. That is the most satisfying thing, that we have actually made a difference in this animal's life.”

The seal now has flipper tags so it can be identified and have its movements traced.

“We know that, historically, a lot of animals do really well after a period like this. So fingers crossed."