Living Coasts seal brushes up spa sessions
A female seal on the English Riviera is enjoying the high life with her own spa beauty sessions.
South American fur seal Tunanta lives at Living Coasts, Torquay’s coastal zoo. She loves a good exfoliating scrub with a stiff brush followed by a dip in the open-air saltwater pool and maybe a seaweed wrap to finish.
Her keeper Madeleine Millin told the Devon Week: “She started coming over to play with the brush we were using to clean the rocks in the enclosure. If she’s in the right mood she will lie there and be rubbed with the brush or sprayed with the hosepipe – sometimes she rolls on her back and puts her flippers in the air!”
Living Coasts is home to five South American fur seals. Male Gringo is 16 years old; Grace is 9, Luna is 9, Tunanta has just turned 4 and her half-brother Oscar is 3. The seals get a variety of things to play with, including fronds of seaweed.
Living Coasts director Elaine Hayes said: “Sometimes she acts like she’s at a spa resort with a team of personal beauticians. I think she’s making sure she looks her best for the breeding season! The treatment is fun but it’s great for removing dead skin, too. It’s probably a bit more vigorous that you might get from a top spa, but she loves it!”
Playing with the brush and the seaweed is good environmental enrichment for the young seal. Environmental enrichment is about stimulating animals physically or mentally, encouraging play and activity and curiosity.
Living Coasts vet Sarah Hewitt said: “It is also a useful training tool – it means we can get close enough to check her over. It could even help us to apply medication or do a veterinary examination if needed.”
(image: Living Coasts keepers Dan Bentley and Hayley Clark give Tunanta a scrub)