Our second shift, in the 72-hour tracking marathon this past week started out roughly, as we were all freezing after a few hours from the wind, despite everyone’s layers of clothes.
Dawn brought another treat beyond the promise of warming up, when we realized that Zulu was heading towards Seal Island in the dark hours before sunrise. Six or seven seals passed the stern of Cheetah right around this time, heading for Seal Island, making all of us quite excited. Right before the sun started to come up in a pink and blue sky, Zulu led us right to the northern tip of Seal Island, just a few hundred meters off the seal launch site.
Around 8:40, Stephen noticed a flock of cormorants about 40 meters to our starboard side. Five minutes later, the whole team was uttered: “BREACH!” The hydrophone’s position and relative signal strength told us it was Zulu, breaching partially out of the water at the flock of cormorants.
In the midst of the excitement of the breach, we tracked Zulu back to Hartenbos for a few more hours, but she eventually returned to Seal Island. In our 12 hours of tracking, she made 4 total trips to Seal Island, never venturing past Hartenbos. Was she actually hungry, or just practicing hunting and breaching? We may not know, but one thing’s for sure: everyone who missed the breach, and even those who saw it, are dying to see another spectacular feat of one of South Africa’s top predators.
To be continued…