Prestigious film award highlights V&A seal rehabilitation programme

A film about the V&A’s sun-worshipping Cape Fur Seal residents has achieved top honours in a prestigious film festival.

The film, Saving Seals, was made by well-known Capetonian Steve Benjamin, a local wildlife photographer and conservation ambassador for Animal Ocean. Benjamin’s film won both the Grand Pix Documentary Film award at the International Tourism Film Festival, and a Gold award in the Environment & Ecology thematic category.

The film documents the pioneering efforts to rescue free seals from plastic entanglement at the V&A, where staff use a groundbreaking new technique. The rehab work forms part of the V&A’s Marine Wildlife Management Programme.

Benjamin said he was honoured by the award: “The making of the film was a long and arduous process to complete due to logistical and technical complications, but also to ensure that the story of this passionate work being done with the seals, is told correctly,” he said in a joint statement released by the V&A Waterfront. “We are really excited that this film, and the recognition it is getting, will continue to highlight the great work that the Two Oceans Aquarium and the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation are doing for Cape fur seals in the Waterfront and harbour areas,” said Benjamin.

Released in November last year the film highlights the work of key stakeholders in the Wildlife Management Programme, notably Vincent Calder and Claire Taylor from the Two Oceans Aquarium, and veterinarian Dr Brett Gardner, as well as officials from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment.

Calder and Taylor developed a new method of approaching unsuspecting seals from below the V&A marina jetties, and then using specialised equipment to remove plastic entanglements. “Calder and Taylor’s efforts were recognised and have been incorporated into the Marine Wildlife Management Programme at the V&A Waterfront,” the V&A said in the statement.

The Aquarium has worked closely with Gardner and Department officials to trial a protocol for the use of sedative darts in cases where seals are unable to be freed using the ‘sneak and snip’ method described above.

Taylor said she was proud to have contributed to the success of the film: “The film shines the spotlight on the work that the team is doing to assist the seals in the V&A Waterfront and the Port of Cape Town. It also highlights the fact that not all environmental issues have the same solutions, and sometimes one has to think outside of the box to tackle these kinds of problems,” Taylor said.

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