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Culture

Prague Zoo Gets A Happy Ending With Return of Fugitive Seal

After his breakout from the Prague Zoo during massive flooding, zookeepers capture "Gaston" the seal near the town of Wittenberg in Germany after a nearly 400-kilometer swim down the Elbe.

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Seals "Myska" and "Bara" will soon be reunited with runaway seal "Gaston," who fled the zoo in the wake of the floods

As waters from the river Vtlava swamped large parts of Prague, thousands were forced to leave their homes – including the animals at Prague's Zoo.

But as zookeepers attempted to bring the animals from their flooded quarters to safety, some took advantage of the situation, taking to the waters for freedom.

Of these, a seal called Gaston, was particularly quick, deftly swimming his way up the river Elbe in direction of the North Sea, with both Czech and German pursuers hot on his flippers.

On Monday, at around 15:00 GMT, Gaston was finally caught in the German town of Wittenberg, in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt.

Running rings round his followers

“We are extremely relieved that he has been caught”, zoo spokesman Vip Kahle told DW-WORLD on Monday in a telephone interview.

“Gaston was caught by German vets in Wittenberg, and is now on his way back to Prague”, Kahle said. Zookeepers are expecting his homecoming early on Tuesday.

Over the weekend, television pictures showed an obviously excited Gaston running rings around boats carrying Czech seal specialists in three high-powered dinghies as they fed him salted fish.

Gaston was the last of four missing seals to have made a break for freedom after floods swamped the Prague Zoo last week. According to spokesman Kahle, the first seal was quick to return to his tank after only hours, and one of the other two, a sea lion named Miska, was discovered on Sunday near the town of Melnik, some 30 kilometres north of Prague.

Zoo hard hit

Last week’s severe flooding struck the Prague Zoo, which had established a reputation for itself as one of Eastern Europe's best and most modern, particularly hard. Although the Great Seal Escape had a happy ending, the week has been more tragic for some of the zoo's other animals. Both an elephant and a hippopotamus had to be put down after zookeepers concluded they could not be rescued, and a gorilla is feared to have drowned.

Images of the popular elephant Kadir struggling to survive in the surging waters shocked many in the Czech capital.

According to Kahle, there have been no estimates as to the exact damage done to the zoo by the floods, but he did say the park will have to raze three buildings as a result of the flooding. However, “one consolation is the great number of volunteers who are at the zoo to help”, Kahle said.

  • Date 19.08.2002
  • Author Louise Brown
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/2ZRO
  • Date 19.08.2002
  • Author Louise Brown
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/2ZRO