A confused arctic hooded seal was rescued for the second time after swimming the wrong way out of England.
The seal, nicknamed Sahara, has been found off the Spanish coast after swimming south. Last year, the same seal was picked up off the coast of Morocco while just a pup and taken to England for veterinary care. Sahara should have headed to Iceland or Greenland, the traditional mating grounds of the animals, but for some reason he has swum south for two years in a row.
“We think he left a breeding area in Iceland and got completely lost and followed the shelf down to Morocco,” said Tamara Cooper of the National Seal Sanctuary in Cornwall. After six months in the Cornish sanctuary earlier this year, Sahara was tagged and released in the sea near the Orkney Isles in the beginning of October.
The seal at first followed a correct course towards Iceland, but after a short time he turned tail and headed south towards Spain. He was rescued Sunday in the bay of Ondarroa, near the Basque city of Bilbao. He has been placed in a rescue facility in northern Spain.
“We’re disappointed that he headed south and not back up north, but we’re relieved that he’s safe and well,” said Cooper. “We hope he gets one more chance to remain free, instead of being protected here,” she added.
Nobody knows exactly why the seal has been traveling south. Sahara is not the only arctic hooded seal to exhibit this pattern. Several other seals have exhibited similar behavior in the past 10 years. Scientists have been unable to explain the behavior, but have theorized that the animals are following fish or ocean currents.
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