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Namibia: Home of the Warm-hearted Cape Fur Seal    
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Hallo, benevolent viewers, and welcome to Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants. On today’s program we’ll visit Namibia in southwest Africa to learn about the inquisitive, playful, warm-hearted Cape Fur Seals who make their home there.

The Republic of Namibia is an ecologically diverse nation with Angola, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa as neighbors. The country’s geographical features include a long Atlantic coastline, the spectacular Kalahari Desert, the high plains of the Great Escarpment and the peaceful Kunene River.

Namibia is also home to numerous wildlife species and takes great pride in its biodiversity, being one of the few countries in the world to specifically address conservation and protection of nature in its constitution. With its 26 parks and wildlife reserves, ecotourism has become one of the country’s major sources of revenue. Eight mammals are endemic to Namibia, including the Black-Faced Impala, and several species of mice, gerbils and bats. Thirty endemic species of lizards also reside in the country.

Other magnificent native animals include the rare Black Rhinoceros, the African Wild Dog, the Mountain Zebra, the Wildebeest, and the majestic African Elephant. Over 20 species of antelope live in Namibia as well, with the splendid black-and-white, long-horned Gemsbok antelope, being proudly featured on the nation’s coat of arms.

Just off the coast, the cold Benguela current flows through the Atlantic Ocean, providing fresh water and a plentiful food supply for a wide variety of marine life and an ideal environment for the gentle Cape Fur Seal. Also known as Brown Seals, Cape Fur Seals are warm-hearted, playful, and sociable, and enjoy swimming and living together in communal groups.

The females are devoted mothers, who after a gestation period of 12 months, leave the safety of the ocean to give birth to a single pup on shore. Mothers and babies have a close relationship, with pups suckling for at least 12 months. During this time the mothers teach their young about communal living, swimming and surviving in the wild. Being friendly and inquisitive about humans, Cape Fur Seals often accompany scuba divers during their underwater explorations.

Many people love these innocent, sweet natured mammals, and want to protect them. For example, Seal Alert-South Africa, founded in 1999 by Francois Hugo, investigates injustices done to Cape Fur Seals, rescues and rehabilitates them, and then helps them return to the wild. Through his work, Mr. Hugo, who has been honored with the Shining World Compassion Award by Supreme Master Ching Hai, has learned about the profound intelligence that lies behind the seals’ warm, brown eyes.

They are full of emotions; they respond to you; they answer your calls. Although they are wild seals they behave as intimately as any animal that you’ve ever encountered would.

These animals function exactly like us humans. They think for themselves, they think what is right; they think what is wrong for them. And when they see other people around them helping them, they understand. And you have to believe in that.

Mr. Hugo says there is one word that best describes a Cape Fur Seal.

There’s one word, and that’s love. I mean, that is the simple and easiest thing. You want to come here early in the morning to be with them, and you don’t want to go home.

And when you’re here, no matter how much there is suffering and pain and dying and death, there’s just love all around. They’re just incredible animals to be part of, and I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to share my life with them.

But Mr. Hugo also has two major concerns about the continued existence of the loving Cape Fur Seals. The first is that they’ve been driven from the off-shore islands that have been their home for centuries. Instead, the breeding colonies are now on Namibia’s beaches which have left these marine mammals very vulnerable.

Mr. Hugo’s second concern is that these gentle beings are threatened by the annual Namibian seal hunt. While outlawed in South Africa since 1990, the massacring of seals is still permitted in Namibia, where up to 85,000 pups and 6,000 adult male seals, or bulls, are authorized to be clubbed to death each year, and their skins sold to the fur trade. Fortunately, however, Francois Hugo is making a difference. Ever since he founded Seal Alert, he has dedicated his life to saving the lives of Cape Fur Seals.

Basically I’ve lived amongst wild colonies of seals for the last ten years. As many people would come home to their family, seals are my family. I have probably raised 5,000 of them. I live and breathe them, I think about them, I sleep about them; they are as much part of my life as the air that I breathe.

Supreme Master Ching Hai actively supports organizations around the globe that work to safeguard animals. In 2009, she contributed US$200,000 to assist Seal Alert-South Africa in stopping the Namibian seal hunt. Deeply touched by her support, Mr. Hugo renamed his South Africa-based rescue facilities the “Supreme Master Ching Hai’s Seal Alert-SA Seal Center” in her honor.

In the past 12-months Seal Alert has celebrated two exciting events. First, the South African government agreed to allow the seals to return to some of the small islands off the South African coast. Second, the Seal Alert-SA Seal Center happily reported the birth of two Cape Fur Seal pups in captivity, a world's first. The beautiful babies, a girl and a boy, were lovingly named Nellie and Huggie.

With love and gratitude, in March 2011 Supreme Master Ching Hai provided an additional US$50,000 contribution to Seal Alert-South Africa to help further its mission. She also sent Francois Hugo a thank you letter, from which the following is an excerpt.

Dear Mr. Hugo, God bless you, Sir, so that you may go forward with your noble mission. I pray to Heaven for the protection of the seals and for your continued success on their behalf. May the day when there is no more killing of innocent creatures soon arrive, and Mr. Hugo, your gracious efforts are helping to hasten that day. As the seals say: “One day all species, both human and animal, will look upon each other as brothers and sisters.” We pray for that day with all our heart and tears with you.

Thank you, Francois. Words cannot express my gratitude to you and for your incredible efforts to save the seals that consequently might also save humans and our world. With Great Honour, Love and Blessings, Supreme Master Ching Hai

Nellie and Huggie, under the tender care of their mothers, began to thrive, living happily for several months at the Center. Then, on July 27, 2011, Mr. Hugo provided an update to Supreme Master Television, sharing both sorrowful and joyful news about the pair. Here is an excerpt of his message.

Sadly, Nellie died some months back. Not exactly sure what happened. She was out swimming in the ocean and somehow cut her flipper which involved cutting a main vein where she bled profusely. Nellie made it back to my seal center, but her blood loss was so severe, so (she) died in my arms a few hours later. Huggie born to Mumkin, whom I rescued six years back as a baby pup, one of the last remaining pups on a seal colony going extinct 250 kilometers up the west coast, is doing great.

Mr. Hugo kindly provided some footage of Huggie and Mumkin to Supreme Master Television as well.

In the safe surroundings of the Supreme Master Ching Hai Seal Alert-SA Center, Francois Hugo watches Mumkin after giving birth to her new son, Huggie. He feels a strong, special bond with Mumkin. For many months, Mr. Hugo cared for her like a parent, feeding her by hand, playing with her, holding her on his lap while he worked, and even donning his wet suit to teach her how to swim.

Now, six years later, he joyfully witnesses the circle of life continue. He watches as Mumkin cares for her beloved son, caressing him, and placing her flipper tenderly around him while he suckles at her breast. Snuggling up next to Huggie, the two of them have spent many happy hours together. Huggie is growing quickly, is healthy and strong, and now swims very well. He and Mumkin enjoy spending special “Daddy” times with Francois Hugo.

Then again in late July 2011, Supreme Master Ching Hai provided an additional gift of US$20,000 to Seal Alert-South Africa to help with seal rescue efforts and other seal protection activities. Here is an excerpt of a July 24, 2011 letter from Mr. Hugo to Supreme Master Ching Hai regarding the donation:

After 12 years of seal rescue and protection Seal Alert-SA is now proud to announce that Supreme Master Ching Hai is the Cape fur seals largest patron for their protection and rescue. Finally as per your wishes Seal Alert is pleased to announce that it is now working with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), National Council of SPCAs, European Parliament MEPs, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Foundation Brigitte Bardot, Earthrace Conservation and De Beers in a unified attempt to strengthen the seals case in court if need be.

I hope this year with your invaluable support that this will be the last year Cape fur seals in Namibia are cruelly beaten to death commercially and their future protected. For everything that you are and the privilege you have bestowed on Seal Alert to help protect the Cape fur seals, on their behalf I deeply thank you, Supreme Master Ching Hai. For the Seals Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA

On September 20, 2011, a Seal Conference arranged by a Namibian federal official, Ombudsman John Walters, was held in the capital city of Windhoek in response to a legal opinion obtained by Seal Alert that seal slaughter is against Namibian law. This event is a most welcome sign of a possible closure of the seal industry in the country. In a September 17, 2011 post to his online blog, Mr. Hugo thanked Supreme Master Ching Hai for her financial assistance that made it possible to procure the legal opinion.

Supreme Master Ching Hai is gratefully providing Seal Alert-South Africa with an "extra US$30,000, for furthering protective actions for these helpless, innocent blessing love beamers and with all love and prayerful best wishes for their peaceful well-being and relatedly that of our world."

Supreme Master Ching Hai often speaks about the deep love nature of the animals, as in an interview with journalist Louise King that was published in the December 16, 2009 edition of the Irish Dog Journal.

You see, the seals and the whales emanate an incredible, great power of divine love, an unconditional love that could be likened to that between a mother and her child. They anchor and distribute this wave of love across our planet. Because of humankind’s lack of love and kindness, animals like seals and whales have been born to help fill in this missing void. And it is this love that is sustaining our planet and keeping it from destruction up to now. So, we should never ever hunt and kill these noble, gracious helpers of humankind and the planet.

We applaud your tireless, diligent work Francois Hugo, on behalf of Namibia’s seals. May you have much continued success in your noble endeavors to preserve the lives of these precious marine mammals.

For more details on Seal Alert-South Africa, please visit: www.SealAlertSA.wordpress.com Or contact Francois Hugo at sasealion@wam.co.za +27-21-790 8774

Thank you for your company today on Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants. May all beings on Earth forever live in peace and harmony.
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