Education >> Peninsula Valdez

Satellite Tagging I

Claudio Campagna, standing to the right, is an Argentine WCS Scientist whose interest in wildlife conservation began in with his studies of human behavior at his Buenos Aires Medical school. Soon he began to explore the intricacies of animal behavior, as well. His research has taken Claudio all over the world with much of his time spent in his beloved land, Patagonia.
We caught up with Claudio in November 2003 on the eastern shores of Peninsula Valdez, which lies on the northern coast of Argentinean Patagonia. Go to our Voyage section and try to locate Peninsula Valdez. I'll give you a hint, we wrote a log report from there on 16 November 2003.
In the photo above and to the right Claudio is walking swiftly back and forth from his portable beach side laboratory and the Southern Elephant Seal (Elefante Marino del Sur) colony which he is studying. This species is the largest of all seals in the world!
It is late in the season for the Elephant Seals to be ashore, and all the large males, which can weigh up to 5 tons (more than a small car, ufffffff!!!!), have already returned back to sea, where they will remain for approximately 10 months out of the year. To the right is a picture of a young female we encountered.
Elephant seals seem like super chill (very relaxed) guys, as can be seen in this picture on the right, but they are some of the best divers in the world when they are at sea (foraging on pelagic fish and squid at depths of up to 1,500 meters, or 5,000 feet, for as long as 2 hours), and during breading season on land the females fast, loosing 1/3 of their body weight. So, their lives are way more intense than portrayed in this photograph.
Claudio's beach-side laboratory. Here he prepares the narcotic cocktail with which he anesthesia the animals. His goal is to relax the seal enough with the narcotic for approximately 2 hours, so that it will not be stressed or scared by the work he will conduct. But what kind of research is Claudio actually doing? Read on to find out!
The anesthesia that Claudio uses has been carefully prepared by WCS veterinarians. It's quantity and chemical composition is custom tailored for the Southern Elephant Seal. All animals react differently to drugs, so this step is very important. Claudio is loading the syringe.
Claudio lifts the syringe and needle, with which he will inject the anesthesia into the sea. He makes sure no air bubbles are left in the liquid narcotic.
Relieved and with a big smile Claudio checks all vital signs on his anesthetized female Elephant Seal. She is doing great an soon his work can begin!
In the foreground Claudio is attaching an electronic transmitter onto the seals head. He uses a flexible epoxy glue to secure the device. The glue does not harm the soft grey animal skin in any way. It is used to harsh marine environment. In the background Graham Harris, the Director of Fundacion Patagonia Natural, a partner to WCS, is pouring sea-water and weed onto the sleeping female seal. This will protect her skin from sunburn and prevent her body from overheating in the afternoon sun.

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