A Softie At Heart : To the unexpected rescue of a seal pup, a two-ton lifeguard.

Male elephant seals are not known for their paternal instincts. While splayed out on the beach during the breeding season, these-far- from gentle giants focus on mating with females and fighting other males.

As they hustle their two-tons of bulk around in pursuit of these goals, ''they'll run over pups'' without hesitation, crushing even their own offspring, said Daniel Costa, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

That made the events of Jan. 27, 2022, striking. Sarah Allen and Matthew Lau, wildlife biologists at the National Park Service, were surveying the northern-elephant seal population at Point Reyes National Seashore, northwest of San Francisco.

As they walked past a colony on the beach, they noticed a young pup resting with an adult female close to the water.

''It was a warm day,'' Dr. Allen recalled, so she figured the two were cooling off on the wet sand.

When Dr. Allen and Mr.Lau passed the colony again on their way back, the rising tide had pulled the pup out to sea. Too young to swim, it was struggling to stay afloat.

The female was still on the beach, answering the pup's cries with calls of her own, which attracted the attention of a nearby male. '' '' We thought, 'Oh, he's going to try and mate with her,'' Dr. Allen said.

Instead, he gave the female a sniff and then charged into the surf,'' she said. When he reached the pup, he used his body to gently nudge it back to the beach - probably saving its life. The female bellowed after being reunited with her pup.

Dr. Allen has observed elephant seals for more than 40 years and had never seen a similar rescue before. '' I contacted a bunch of colleagues asking if they'd seen anything like this, and nobody had,'' she said.

The biologists published their observation in the journal Marine Mammal Science, Dr. Costa said the article could encourage other seal scientists to be on the lookout for similar behaviours.

'' He was so determined and directional in going out there, and so fast,'' Dr. Allen said. '' And then coming back in, he was so gentle.''   [Darren Incorvaia]


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!