Resting in freedom

As every morning, on Monday august 15th we turned on the camera that allow us to monitor from the distance, the daily going of the seals of the reserve “Costa de las Focas” at the inside of the breeding caves. We thought it would be a regular day, in which as any other that comprises the breeding season, we would look after the first born to secure they were fine and we would search the beach willing to observe a new birth.

But that day was special, as we were waiting patiently for the pups to tell us their identity by showing us their ventral patch, and although the bad visibility that such a grey day was giving us, we confirmed that at the deep end of the cave, there was an individual trapped between two rocks.

To understand it, we have to go back to Thursday august 11th, when we thought we were seeing an animal there, but very skeptical with the idea we decided that the bad visibility was tricking us…Ever was detected something similar in the 16 years of the project! So our first thought was to discharge such an idea. But that Monday 15th, as the day was drawing on and tide was rising, the oddity of the position of the animal and the fact that it had not move from where it was, not only that day but since Thursday, started to reveal what we thought at first was a brain trick.

And indeed, the afternoon of that Monday the visibility improved and we were able to confirm with anguish that a youngster of two-three months of age was trying desperately to move from where it was, calling and fighting against the waves that were reaching it on high tide. It had been there, trapped, for the last five days! (It is important to say that, on weekends the field team does not work and there is no one monitoring the inside of the breeding caves, that is why it was not detected before. On Friday visibility inside the caves was null).

We were able to observe how it was trapped between two rocks, which were imprisoning part of its body at scapulas level. It was clearly obvious that it was not going to be able to escape from them by itself and that it was necessary to intervene to release it.

But there was one problem, the two technicians that are normally working at the reserve, Abba M’bareck and Moulaye Haya, were in Madeira on an exchange trip under the frame of the LIFE Monk seal being developed there by CBD-Habitat and they would not be back until August 28th. On that moment, there was only a technician at field. The importance of this information is that one of the security measures of the program is that it is prohibited, under any circumstance, to go inside any cave, alone.

After a very intense communication with Madrid, it was decided, after evaluating the situation and without any hesitation, that another technician would go from Madrid to the reserve “Costa de las Focas” to release the animal. We were not going to let it die. We got good advices from Madrid zoo, to which we are very grateful for their unconditional help to the program, and that it did not hesitate an instance on advising us in how to treat the animal in case it was necessary and on giving us the needed material to treat it in case it was wounded or dehydrated.

And Thursday 18th came and with it, the release of the animal. We wished it were earlier, but flights to Nouadhibou are not every day and it was the next possible since we confirmed that the animal was trapped. After several days watching powerless form the distance, it would come, at last, the moment to free it.

So that was how at 17:30, an hour later of the arrival of the plane from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria that Fernando Aparicio and Mercedes Muñoz-Cañas, started to descend the cliff to go inside the breeding cave. The approach to the animal was quick, and it did not start a stampede. When arriving to where the youngster was, we were able to check that the health condition of the animal was good and that there were no wounds. It was, simply, trap between to rocks.

We tried to pull it out knowing that we could not apply too much force to not hurt it, but it was so imprisoned that it was impossible. So we decided to break the stone that was keeping it trapped. The youngster, still a fighter and vital and without understanding what we were doing, kept trying to bite us while we little by little were breaking the rocks.


Place where the animal was trapped

After 15 minutes, the desired moment came. The animal obtained, at last, freedom.


Slowly it started to go away from where we were and if as a gift, it went to the water where there was another youngster of more or less its age, and with whom it started to play. What an incredible feeling involved us! We saved it!


No other seal went out of the cave during the time the intervention lasted. It is true that afterwards, with the noise we made to fishing breaking the rock, so no other animal would get trapped again, some adults that were hauling out on the beach went to the sea. But during all the time, there were accompanying us a few curious pups resting in group very close to where we were.

And in fact, the next day side with us. When turning the monitor on, we saw how a few animals were just on the area where the previous day was the youngster trapped. We were very grateful of the decision made of breaking and destroying any remote possibility of getting another animal trapped. We saw as well, that some of the adults that went to the sea while breaking the rock, were there resting or feeding their pups.


How it looked after breaking the rock  

But the best of Friday august 19th was to find our little protagonist being rocked at the shore by the waves with the only remainder of its anguished captivity, of a little scratch on one of its scapulas.

It is impossible to describe the emotions of absolute happiness and release that involved the all of us that lived the story from the beginning. The ones who observed with anguish the youngster every day before its release. Our little protagonist was, at last, resting in freedom.


Dejar un comentario

Tu dirección de email no será publicada.