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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Japan's celebrity seal resurfaces
Tama-chan the seal before her eye was pierced
Tama-chan's injuries are not thought to be serious

Tama-chan, a wild Japanese seal who sparked a media frenzy after he got lost in a polluted river in Yokohama last year, has resurfaced with a fish hook in his eye.

The hook, which pierced his right eye, appeared not to be life-threatening, although zoologists and local officials were discussing what to do.

Ecologists attempted to capture the seal in March, but he escaped through a gap in the nets they were using.

Since appearing on the Tama river in August 2002, the bearded seal's movements have been followed closely in the Japanese media.

Tama-chan's latest encounter with a fish hook was covered extensively by Japan's television news.

Local prefectural officials speculated that an increase in angling during Japan's recent "Golden week" holiday celebrations could have been responsible for the seal's piercing.

Some of Tama's fans went down to the riverbank to have a look at their mascot, including members of a fan club called "Tama-chan wo Mimamoru Kai" who have been monitoring the seal's movements.

"I'd feel sorry if he was captured, but I would like to see the hook removed for him," said eight year-old observer, Minori Koike.

Toy manufacturers were quick to catch on to the seal's appeal and produced look-alike action figures of him for fans.

The seal also caught the attention of the cult Pana Wave which has been responsible for bizarre activities recently including the blocking of roads in Gifu prefecture.

They apparently have been feeding the seal, and may even have attempted to capture him earlier in the year.




SEE ALSO:
Japan seal slips through the net
11 Mar 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Devastating seal virus is over
16 Jan 03  |  England
North Sea seals at risk
12 Jul 02  |  Science/Nature


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