Friday, 1 April 2011

A Wandering Seal

Spotted by Fishermen on the Banks of the Dordogne
The wandering seal found yesterday in the Dordogne would have by now found refuge near the proposed bridge of Prigonrieux (24) . Last week it was seen on the Port Sainte-Foy side.
As all fishermen will tell you, you find everything in the Dordogne including things that you shouldn’t find there. As proof, this grey seal, weighing about 80kg and about 1.8m long, was seen, at the beginning of the week, on the banks of the river. The first person to have alerted the press was Marc Broquaire, a fisherman from Bergerac who lives on the left bank of the river. Retired for four years, he never goes out without his camera. Monday morning as he walked along the river bank the sixty year old found himself face to face with a seal “grey and as large as a man” that he quickly snapped, “without that, people would have asked themselves if I hadn’t gone mad!”, explained Marc Broquaire. “From a distance I thought it was a piece of wood washed up on the bank, but gradually as I approached there wasn’t a shadow of a doubt. It really was a seal.”

“It has swum up the river”
A seal! On learning the news the fishermen of Bergerac thought that it was an April Fool’s prank “, you are pulling our legs aren’t you?” But no, because the very serious director of Epidor (1), Guy Pustelnik, admitted that “he had had wind of the presence of an animal like a seal at Sainte-Foy-la-Grande last week”. “Personally I was inclined to think it was a coulobre (2), a species which we have recently re-introduced into the Dordogne, but the idea of a seal doesn’t surprise me. Three or four years ago one was found in La Vallée de L’Isle.” But a photo taken last week on the Port-Sainte-Foy side (published on the front page of the newspaper) confirms its presence in the area.

So how has this marine mammal arrived at the doors of Bergerac? There the mystery persists. After recovering from the surprise, “hold on, they’ve found what in the Dordogne?” – Frederic Dhermy, the director of the tourist complex of Eaux de Queyssac, suggests a tentative explanation: “As far as I’m concerned, the seal has swum up the river from the Gironde estuary. The reduction in fish numbers in the sea may have pushed this seal to follow the shoals of shad which spawn in the Dordogne. ” A possibility considered plausible by Laurent Corbel, the director of the aquarium of Perigord Noir à Bugue, who remembers having seen on the television a six metre whale swimming in the Thames. “As long as an animal is able to continue to feed itself, there is no reason for it to stop”, stated this connoisseur of fresh water fish.

Or has it escaped from a zoo?
A courageous seal? Fit enough to swim 150km? On that point M Frédéric Delmarès, professional fisherman and fish farmer is rather sceptical. “The presence of the seal doesn’t surprise me. Fifteen years ago a seal had found refuge on a rock in Creysse. It had escaped from a zoo perhaps that’s the case again.”

How long will it stay in the waters of the Dordogne? Only the seal knows. To see it closely it’s best to join the visit organised for Sunday afternoon on the banks of Prigonnieux. Between now and then the naturalist Yannick Lenglet will have prepared the way.

(1) Établissement public territorial du bassin de la Dordogne,
(2) Un coulobre, a species associated with certain poissons d’Avril

Translated from the article in Sud Ouest by John Preedy


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