Ocean Park is investigating what the accidental death of a year-old male spotted seal.
The seal died during an incident at about 2.30pm on Monday (1/6/2015) during a backwash cycle on filters at the Polar Adventure attraction which opened in 2012 and features different species of penguins, walruses, seals and sealions. In subtropical Hong Kong the energy-intensive attraction is kept at 8-10 degrees C for species native to the South Pole, with 15 to 17 degrees C for North Pole species.
The accident appeared to be the result of the animal becoming trapped against an outlet during the backwash operation, but the exact cause of death had not been confirmed after an examination of the body was carried out on Monday.
The first spotted seals were born in Hong Kong between Apr. 13 and May 4. All the seals are male and named Ocean, Sonny and Sammy. They are the offspring of three different seals from Dalian in the mainland.
The baby seals each weighed between 18kg and 38kg now, up from about 10kg after their birth, said Polar Adventure curator Philip Wong Wing-hong. The boys sport fluffy coats at birth, but two have already shed them. The youngest squirt, Sammy, is expected to do so about a month later. “Sonny is the most energetic of the three. He swam for the first time just 32 hours after he was born,” he said. “Ocean is the friendliest and loves interacting with the trainers.”
The spotted seal – the only type of seal found in China – can live up to 35 years and weigh a maximum of 130kg.
The spotted seal (Phoca largha, Phoca vitulina largha), also known as the larga or largha inhabits ice floes and waters of the north Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas. It is primarily found along the continental shelf of the Beaufort, Chukchi, Bering and Okhotsk Seas and south to the northern Yellow Sea and it migrates south as far as northern Huanghai and the western Sea of Japan. It is also found in Alaska from the southeastern Bristol Bay to Demarcation Point during the ice-free seasons of summer and autumn when spotted seals mate and have pups. Smaller numbers are found in the Beaufort Sea.
The reduction in arctic ice floes due to global warming led to concerns that the spotted seal was threatened with extinction. In South Korea, spotted seals have been designated Natural Monument No. 331 and second-class endangered species. This is because the seals from South Korea travel to Dalian, China to breed every year where several thousands are harvested for their genitals and sealskin to be sold on the black market for Chinese medicine. An environmental activist group Green Korea United is currently working closely with local Chinese government to stop the seals from being poached by Chinese fishermen. In China the seals are covered under category 2 of the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Law.
The newborn seals are born with a coat of fluffy fur which they shed one month later, and they usually dip into the water three days after birth.
Two of the mothers, Qiao Niu and Lisa, were born in the Dalian Lao Hu Tan Ocean Park while the other was from the Dalian Sun Asia Ocean World.
The parents of Qiao Niu and Lisa were rescued after the four seals were accidentally caught by fishermen near the seaport. The Lao Hu Tan Ocean Park cared for them before releasing them back into the wild last year.
Visitors can visit the seals at Ocean Park this summer. The park has a total of six bulls and seven cows.