The Weddell seal, Leptonochotes weddelli, is the most southerly breeding of the Antarctic seals. Small groups remain for extended periods over the summer months on the fast-ice of the inlets and shorelines of the Antarctic continent for parturition, lactation and moulting. Those breeding in areas close to Antarctic research stations are uniquely accessible for study, but this may bring them in close contact with human activity and pollution derived from human habitation. Antarctic Treaty nations have undertaken to prevent the accidental introduction of parasites and diseases (Article IX of the Agreed Measures 1964 and The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, 1991) into Antarctica, but our understanding of existing diseases and their effects are limited. At two sites, the Vestfold Hills, East Antarctica, and at McMurdo Sound, Ross Sea, Weddell seals have been tagged over many years for population and feeding ecology studies. This provides two unparalleled opportunities to investigate health and disease in well-described populations of Antarctic wildlife. Health assessment of the population at McMurdo is reported by Yochem et al. (this volume). It is the population of Weddell seals in the Vestfold Hills that is the subject of this chapter.
|Title of host publication
|Health of Antarctic Wildlife: A Challenge for Science and Policy
|Number of pages
|Published - 2009