by Liz Ciocea
(click any of the images below for a larger version)
It was a brilliant day in June; a strong wind was blowing creating large waves at Orlebar Point. A tiny seal pup only a day or two old was observed desperately trying to climb up on the rocky shore. The incoming waves would pick up the struggling little seal drag it back out until finally a very large wave literally threw the seal pup high up on the shore. It lay there exhausted lifting its head and crying piteously for its mother. No adult seals were seen in the area so some time passed before a call went out to Growls for help.
Growls volunteers responded quickly, assessed the seal pup and determined it was premature because of its white coat (lanugo), which is normally shed before birth. Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre on Saltspring Island was contacted and Growls was instructed to rescue the seal pup. The pup was transported by wildliferescue helicopter to IWNCC and given the name Geneva. Seriously dehydrated and emaciated weighing only 6 kilos (birthweight should be 15 kilos). He was kept in the isolation ward for several weeks and tube fed a mixture of mashed herring laced with vitamins. Geneva thrived, after six months weighed 30 kilos was now catching his own herring and swimming in the big pool with the other rescued seal pups.
As the timefor his release back into the ocean drew near it was noticed there was a milky film over both eyes. He was diagnosed as having cataracts and was blind.After many consultations with marine mammal experts, the Vancouver Aquarium and top ophthalmologists it was decided surgery could be scheduled. The first week in December Geneva underwent cataract surgery in New Westminster.
The cataracts were successfully removed but another eye problem was identified which might not respond to treatment.
Meanwhile Geneva is back at IWNCC onSaltspring being cared for by people who love him. He is not back in the pool until the tiny incisions in his eyes heal. Captivity is not an option, everyone is hopeful that Geneva ‘s sight will be restored so he can swim free in the ocean. Geneva was one of eighteen seal pups rescued by Growls in 2008.
Future articles will take an in depth look at seals/seal pups that live on reefs around Gabriola.