Chileans rally to rescue elephant seal that got stranded in town


Chile’s overnight curfew, declared at the end of March to help curb the spread of Covid-19 through the narrow South American country, has not been universally observed by all species. Emboldened by the lack of people and cars, seven mountain lions have been captured on the streets of Santiago in recent months. Now it appears the large cats are not the only creatures keen for a change of scene.

On Monday night, the residents of Puerto Cisnes, a coastal town 1,500km (932 miles) south of the capital, were treated to the decidedly un-swanlike spectacle of a two-tonne elephant seal hauling itself through their neighbourhoods at a surprisingly decent clip.

The elephant seal, which had become disorientated after coming ashore, was eventually helped back into the sea after dozens of neighbours, police and naval officers used black tarpaulins to drive it towards the water.

“I was a bit startled to begin with, but because they move slowly, I calmed down and told my son to film it,” a local woman called Antonia told the Argentinian online newspaper Infobae.

“I’d never seen one so close up – and certainly never in the middle of town. We see these animals quite far out at sea and so we don’t know much about them. You don’t know if they’re dangerous or if they could attack someone. But what we saw here was that the animal was scared.”

José Muñoz, a sergeant in the Chilean navy, said the seal had travelled quite a few blocks before it was guided back to the sea and away from the dangers posed by people and dogs.

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“I want to thank the community for its huge support,” Muñoz added, reported the Spanish news agency Efe.

“We’ll be carrying out constant patrols so that [the animal] doesn’t come back and to avoid any accidents.”

Southern elephant seals, which are found in sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters, are the largest members of the seal family.

Males seals can measure up to 6 metres in length and weigh up to four tonnes, while females can reach lengths of 3 metres and weigh a little less than a tonne.



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