Victoria, an orphan baby seal rescued from angry seas near the island of Tinos just hours after she was born, will be returning to the wild and a natural life in the sea on Saturday. She won't be shunning civilisation entirely, however, since she goes forth equipped with her very own mobile!
Named after the woman who dived in and rescued her, Victoria Drouga, the little seal was raised by staff and volunteers at the Society for the Study and Protection of the Mediterranean Seal (MOm), who not only kept her alive but also taught her survival skills that she will need in the open sea. As a result, three and a half months after she was rescued, she is now ready to return to her natural environment and was transferred to the National Marine Park of Alonissos.
"To begin with MOm's Nursing Team and volunteers had to force feed the baby seal with fish paste in order to replace the mother seal," explained MOm's communications officer Pepi Lagonika.
"Gradually, we tried to teach her to swim by putting her in a pool. She refused and didn't want to go in the water and we had to train her, like we do with a small baby," she added.
After she became accustomed to the water, Victoria then had to learn to eat on her own and hunt:
"After the fish paste, we started giving her fish fillets by hand but then we had to teach her to hunt for her own food. So MOm experts began by throwing dead fish into the water, which Victoria would play with and think they were toys, like the ones she had in her pool to keep her occupied. Once she discovered they could be eaten, they started to throw in live fish and also let her spend a lot of time on her own so that she would become 'wilder'. In the meantime, they watched her using cameras," Lagonika explained.
The young Monachus monachus seal that arrived at the centre weighing just 15 kilos has now grown to 50 kilos and is ready for life on her own.
To keep track of her, however, MOm will attach a transmitter similar to a mobile phone on the small seal that will send the team SMS messages at regular intervals.
"Through text messages that we will receive at regular time intervals we will be informed of the young seal's geographical location, the depth of her dives, the amount of time she spends in and out of the water and her swimming speed," Lagonika said.
According to MOm's PR officer, this method is considered more reliable than satellite monitoring that MOm used in 2004 on the seal 'Dimitris' that was also released into the wild.
"The young seal, equipped with the latest cutting-edge technology but also inoculated against dangerous viruses, is the 16th Monachus monachus that returns healthy to its natural environment after receiving care and is a double joy for MOm, since it highlights even more the 20 years of effort by the organisation for the survival of this rare species," she added.
Mediterranean or monk seals are currently threatened with extinction with only 500 individuals known to exist. Half of these are in Greece, which contains their most important habitats.
Source: Athens News Agency