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Special Report: Seal Training
It’s now many hours since it happened but I am sure I am still blushing and there are people, particularly OzGold, who continue to snicker.
I’d rather not, but feel I owe it to my various families to tell you what happened.
The group was having a briefing and training run-down on the Leopard Seals program which I have described a little before. There is a lot about the Leopard Seal which is not known and Tracey’s group is carrying out this study - looking at animal behaviours, physiology and so on. For the first few weeks of their time near Davis the team will be assisted by ‘Critter Cam’ run by the NGS and Birgit.
Amongst the techniques the group will be using is anaesthetising the animals by a tranquilizer dart fired from a special gun from about 12-15metres. The tranquilizing is done while the animal is hauled up on the sea ice, and once sedated the animal can then be tagged, measured, weighed and have blood samples taken. This is also when Crittercam will be fitted if it is to be used. The flattish box which Gordon has had in his cabin contained the tranquiliser gun.
Tracey’s team works closely with another team studying Weddell seals and they will be helping each other out. The teams comprise Tracey, Melissa, Sophie, Natasha, Rachael, Tamara, Jon and Bryan, and we can also include Birgit from the NGS who is also a Biologist as a team member. Dave the cameraman was also there. They are all nice people the girls especially.
So why the embarrassment?
Well, OzGold and I were listening attentively to Tracey explaining the techniques for tranquilizing the seals - setting up and loading the drugs, stalking, selecting the target, aiming and releasing the darts, when Tracey looked up at Gordon and asked if I could help her to demonstrate. Gordon, the rat, gleefully accepted so Tracey asked me to come over and I played the part of a leopard seal for the demonstrations. She showed which part of me to aim for, how to roll me on my side, how to lift me in the weighing frame and so on. So there I was, Berkley from Crystal Lake Illinois, being handled by Tracey and these lovely ladies looking on as I was prodded and turned and lifted and everything. Woooo, was I ever blushing and of course Gordon was taking pictures and OzGold was laughing away on the side.
But I enjoyed it. It was nice to think that I became part of this project even if it was only as a model during training; but if my contribution has helped the new members of the team do their jobs that little bit better, then I can be very proud and so can Betty and the children from Husmann School.
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