An elephant seal as big as a compact car brought a Chilean town to a standstill on Monday. The colossal creature took a detour through the residential streets of Puerto Cisnes, in southern Patagonia, before being ushered back to its oceanic abode by the town’s inhabitants.
This mammoth animal navigated through ten blocks of the residential area, causing local authorities to jump into action.
Police, navy officials, and the residents collaborated in blocking off the streets, leading further inland with vehicles and plastic tarps. This same tarpaulin became the guiding path to lead the seal back to its aquatic home.
Kind-hearted locals went the extra mile, ensuring the seal’s hydration by splashing it with bucketfuls of water. The seal returned to the ocean just as 2,500 residents prepared for their coronavirus curfew.
Radio presenter Manuel Novoa of Radio Autentica FM captured the heartwarming rescue operation.
He praised the community spirit, saying, “It’s just a few feet from the sea now. The neighbors’ efforts have been phenomenal. They’re allowing it time to rest because it’s covered around ten blocks and must be exhausted.”
A local dog joined the entourage, excitedly wagging its tail and running behind the seal as it flopped toward the water. The town erupted into applause as the seal disappeared into the ocean, weaving through the anchored fishing boats.
Navy Captain Christian Reyes Jofre thanked the local community and warned people to keep a safe distance from such animals to avoid causing them stress or disorientation.
The unusual incident is thought to have occurred due to the town’s quiet streets during the coronavirus lockdown and curfew.
Antonia, a resident, said, “My son spotted it first, and he was scared initially. It’s not every day you see an elephant seal this close, alone in a residential area.”
Southern elephant seals, like the one found in Puerto Cisnes, were nearly extinct by the end of the 19th century.
Since then, their population has rebounded. These seals, named for their elephant-like noses, can hold their breath for more than 100 minutes and spend around 80% of their lives in the water.
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