Seal Alert SA by Mrs. Nikki both Spokesperson

From: Nikki Botha Seal Alert SA spokesperson

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Nikki: My favorite of Francois

Visit 27 Jan 2007

Seal Alert SA by Mrs. Nikki both Spokesperson:

"It has been a while since I have been to Hout Bay. In fact, the last time I went there was when Seal Alert had just acquired the new premises for the centre. Francois sends us updates on the new centre when time allows, and I am always amazed at the transformation shown by the photos. From a forlorn room full of rubble and crumbling walls, to a clean, painted haven with pups in pools. But nothing prepared me for reality – it is one thing to see photos of the new place, but a different thing seeing it in person. I was blown away. From the outside it does not look like much. One would never guess that it was a rehab centre. Once the door is opened however, the purpose of the building becomes clear. Here pups are safe and happy, sheltered from a cruel, emotionally cold and barren world. They are comfortable and most of all, they are welcome. This centre is THEIRS. Granted, it is not a million dollar hi-tech facility, it is small and humble, but it is warm and inviting.

Francois met Zayne and I in something that resembled a wetsuit with suspenders. He was busy washing out the centre and cleaning up when we arrived. While we waited for most of the water to drain and the floors to dry a bit, he took us outside and showed us what still needed to be done. Fences up here, maybe stairs here, windows up there... The moment the seals heard his voice, they all came swimming towards us. When Zayne parked the car, two seals came to greet us, one making a quite a bit of noise. This had to be Mumkin. I would recognise his voice anywhere! Mumkin now led this little group of seals in a routine of dives and roll-abouts, popping their heads and their bodies in and out of the water. If Francois went out of sight, Mumkin would stretch his neck as far as he could out of the water and call after him. The other seals were not too perturbed - they were too busy being cute and showing off! In the distance, another small group of seals (predominantly bulls) merrily soaked up the sun on Francois’ sunken raft. Every now and again a scuffle would break out if another seal tried to get in on the action, but it was over quickly and everyone enjoyed the sun in peace.

A very special bond exists between Francois and Mumkin. It does not take a genius to figure it out. Francois adores each and every seal, whether in Hout Bay or in Namibia. But Mumkin, who will be retuning to the wild soon as he is old enough to hunt for himself, is clearly like a child and best friend to Francois. I envied him. Not only for the incredible bond that he has with this animal, but I envied him because taxing and tiring as this job may be, the rewards were incalculable. I would drop my job in the corporate jungle in a heartbeat if I could, to be around these seals and to give them a hope in hell in a world where they are hopelessly exploited.
Mumkin joined us in the centre as Francois made himself quite at home in the one completed pup pool. Three little ones eagerly clambered over him and started suckling on anything they could – Francois’ wetsuit, his arm, his hand. We were not the only ones in the centre and the pups are not the only inhabitants, but Getty, a seagull with a broken wing, kept us company and made sure, with loud squawks, that we did not forget that he was just as adorable as the seals! Mumkin in the meantime, swam around in the pool, vying for Francois’s attention. Mumkin made it very difficult for me to take photos of Francois and the pups – every time I leaned in for a shot, he would “charge” me. He thoroughly enjoyed the fact that we found him mean and intimidating, but I have a sneaky suspicion he was just flirting with me!

When it was time to go, Francois showed us the kitchen. This was probably a mistake as this meant only one thing to Mumkin – FOOD! Zayne, Francois and I were trying to discuss plans for the centre, but Mumkin was getting very impatient. He kept on grabbing Francois’s pants and giving it a hard yank before he would throw back his head with a “woe-is-me” holler. When that did not work, he would repeat the action, only this time, he would “accidentally” grab Francois’s leg as well! Eventually Francois gave in and gave Mumkin his food. This really threw me for a loop – Mumkin very patiently sat still with lifted head while Francois inserted a tube down his throat to feed Mumkin his liquid fish. Not a flinch from Mumkin, not even the tiniest sign of a struggle! That tube went in in three seconds flat. Francois KNOWS what he is doing, and Mumkin was more than happy!

I am PROUD of that centre and I am EXCITED about its future. I already have people lined up that I personally promised to take through. I cannot WAIT to share this place with them and the rest of the public. My heart was incredibly sore when we eventually drove away – I wanted to stay and never leave. I also want to work with these seals from 4 am to past midnight. I cannot think of a more worthwhile thing to do than to dedicate all one’s time to a species that is in such desperate need of people like Francois, you and I. The centre is far from finished and there is still a lot that needs to be done. But the biggest part is over – finding a place like this to give these little guys a glimmer of hope."

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a. The seals came swimming when they heard Francois' voice
b. Rolling, diving and showing off

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c. The bulls and other seals are on the sunken raft
d. Getty, who has his own mirror and toys in the centre

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e. Francois and Mumkin in the centre
f. Francois gets a wet one from Mumkin

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g. The pups
h. Mumkin also wants attention

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I. - j. Francois shows us how rehab is done

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k. Clambering all over Francois
l. Each one has a spot to suckle

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m. Mumkin loves attention from francois
n. You can see the little tongue, pup lifting its head from suckling

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o. Which one gets attention first?!
p. Pup suckling Francois' arm

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q. I KNOW I am cute!
r. Mumkin

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s. Mumkin does not allow Francois one moment of rest
t. I want my food damnit', Mumkin grabs Francois' pants

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v. Seals baking in the sun. Hout Bay

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w. Francois lovingly looking at Mumkin
x. My favorite of Francois

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y. - z. The Cape Fur Seal (Hout Bay)