Satellite keeps tabs on Rare Seal
Website Editor Note: Screen grabs from the satellite tracking can be viewed via this link.
Marine experts are anxiously tracking a rare seal by satellite hoping that he heads in the right direction!

Sahara the hooded seal has had a chequered history to date, having wandered from his native Arctic seas all the way to North Africa before being flown half-way home to recuperate at Cornwall's National Seal Sanctuary.
Massively overweight and extremely lethargic on his arrival in Morocco and also minus his fur coat, he was then flown to the UK in April for the last stages of rehabilitation, before his release.

"He was literally bald from his nose to the tips of his flippers, and for a while we were worried he may never grow a proper coat," said Sanctuary animal care worker Tamara Cooper.
"A strict diet and competition for food with common seal pups soon solved his weight problem," she added, "and luckily he did finally grow his fur coat which meant we could plan his release."

Tamara and a colleague drove Sahara the length of the country to meet up with vet Andrew Greenwood and members of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue organisation in Thurso, Scotland.
After a night's rest Sahara was fitted with a transmitter that enables scientists to track him by satellite until it falls off with his next moult, probably early next spring.

He was then ferried west out to deep waters and released not far from the Orkneys.

"On at least one other occasion with another hooded seal that strayed hundreds of miles south, it eventually ended up back in the USA in spite of being given a lift as far as Orkney," said Tamara.
Sahara wearing the satellite transmitter
So Sahara's travels in the next few weeks could determine whether or not such release missions can take place in the future, or whether any other hooded seals would have to be taken all the way back to the Arctic ice-pack.

The release went like clockwork and so far Sahara has moved steadily further westward.

"It's all going according to plan," said Tamara. "Saraha will soon be in the path of strong northerly currents which everyone hopes will encourage him to head home."

The data his trackers can pick up from the satellite also reveals that Sahara has been diving very deep, which suggests he is hunting and feeding normally.

"Unfortunately access to the readings is password protected to prevent the site from crashing," said Tamara, "but we're hoping to put regular up-dates on our own website."
For more details, please contact Rachael Vine on 01326 221361

Press Release date: 15th October 2007

Website Editor Note: Screen grabs from the satellite tracking can be viewed via this link

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