The Shining World Compassion Award: Savior of Seals - Francois Hugo, Founder of Seal Alert South Africa   
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Everywhere in the world, we can observe and be touched by acts of kindness. People from all walks of life, faiths, and cultures extend themselves beyond the call of duty to help others unconditionally. Through their noble deeds, humanity as a whole is elevated.

To commend virtuous actions and encourage more people to be inspired by their examples, Supreme Master Ching Hai has lovingly created a series of awards, including the Shining World Leadership Award, Shining World Compassion Award, Shining World Hero and Heroine Awards, Shining World Honesty Award, Shining World Protection Award, Shining World Intelligence Award, and Shining World Inventor Award, to recognize some of the most exemplary, generous, caring, and courageous people who walk amongst us.

The sound of undulating waves engulfs one’s senses in the rhythmic heartbeat of the majestic ocean. Within the water, the seals inhabit this ethereal, marine realm. Graceful, aquatic acrobats, these precious creations of God, are in perfect communion with the divine in their oceanic world.

They are full of emotions; they respond to you; they answer your calls. Although they are wild seals they behave as intimately as any animal that you’ve ever encountered would.

How could anyone have the heart to harm these noble beings? This is a question that Mr. Francois Hugo asks himself every day as he saves the lives of numerous seals in his native South Africa as well as in Namibia. These animals function exactly like us humans. They think for themselves, they think what is right; they think what is wrong for them. And when they see other people around them helping them, understand. And you have to believe in that.

For five million years, the Cape Fur seals or South African seals have lived in their natural habitat on islands off the coast of the African continent. However, within the last 600 years, humans have drastically reduced the population of these seals and endangered the species’ continued existence.

Seal Alert represents seals and the Cape Fur seal species. It’s the only species of seal breeding on the African continent. It’s been subjected to many, many centuries of abuse, and my job is to reverse that abuse, and to get them back on the evolutionary path and in so doing, protect them and save them for the future.

Founded in 1999 by Francois Hugo, Seal Alert South Africa is a pioneering seal rescue organization that takes a hands-on approach to addressing the cruelty to and abuse of seals through advocacy, campaigns, and introduction of legislation. Seal Alert also investigates the injustices done to seals as well as rescues and rehabilitates the animals, successfully transitioning them back to the wild.

Seal Alert’s mission has been for the last ten years to do everything in its power to protect the species and to ensure they survive into the future.

Therefore I investigate all aspects that affect seals and I undertake all activities to try and protect and save them, which is addressing sealing, over-fishing, debris in the water, the rescue of seals, how to understand the species, (and) what basically they need to survive.

The organization is a reflection of Mr. Hugo’s dedication and heartfelt devotion towards the seals.

Basically I’ve lived amongst wild colonies of seals for the last ten years. As many people would come home to their family, seals are my family. I have probably raised 5000 of them. I live and breathe them, I think about them, I sleep about them, they are as much part of my life as the air that I breathe.

Mr. Hugo’s commitment to the welfare of the seals is truly laudable. Where did this passion for these marine mammals originate?

I’ve been in the water my entire life. I’ve actually spent more time underwater than on land. And I saw seals, as just fish in the water and an animal that didn’t need help. And one seal then caught my attention; he was dying and he was entangled and that little seal I named Sweetie, and that seal basically awakened my whole eyesight to their problem.

And from that minute onwards, I have never left seals in the next 10 years. It’s been continuous; as soon as he was rehabilitated, the next seal arrived and so the next seal came on.

Cape Fur seals are unique in that they need both the sea as well as land to survive. Over time, they began to inhabit offshore islands where they have found relative safety in order to thrive as a species.

Those islands have become colonies or rookeries, but those are basically seals’ homes. It’s a whole 12-month process, almost like humans live in a house, seals will come to that colony and leave from the colony, but they always come back to rest, to molt, to breed, to mate and to feed their young. So it’s very important these communities that seals have.

And they’ve evolved in very special ways where the bulls take care of the whole family as such, the females are then moved into groups of between one and 60 cows to a bull. The pups are all born together so the pups grow up as siblings on the colony and they all interact with each other. And it’s a continual hive of activity where each is actually looking after his own, but at the same time each seal becomes an individual.

After these brief messages, we’ll continue with today’s program featuring the benevolent Francois Hugo, founder of Seal Alert South Africa. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

That bull you see sitting up there in the middle, was my first baby rescued, eight years ago. The one I’ve managed to be successful with, he was raised in my house and he watched television, and he is adopted this raft and everything that is on it as his colony. He is the alpha male on that colony now. He’s actually the first Cape Fur seal baby ever hand-raised in the history of South Africa.

Thank you for joining us for today’s program on the Shining World Compassion laureate Francois Hugo, the founder of Seal Alert South Africa. Three-hundred sixty-five days of the year, Mr. Hugo is on call and at all hours. Annually, he rescues approximately 1,000 Cape Fur seals. His devotion stems from his awareness that each animal is a living, breathing sentient being that deserves the right to live.

From the very first seal, 10 years ago, I’ve never left the seals for one day. Never had a day off, never had a night off, never gone away. If I have to leave the farm for Namibia, I come here four o’clock in the morning, feed them, get on the plane at six, and am back here that evening. Whether you’re in a meeting or discussion, a life is at stake, you drop everything; that becomes important.

The seals’ lives are in grave danger due to human activities which infringe upon their natural way of life. They have been driven away from the large islands they have called home for centuries.

The seals in turn are living on basically awash rocks. In context, 98% of their original habitat is completely banned and extinct to them. The 2% that they are living on is divided over a total coastline area of over 2,000 kilometers. So, for example, each seal colony is now living on less than 1 hectare of a rock off the coastline of South Africa.

And what is upsetting to a species like that is that they are living on a rock that gets completely awash, where every six hours they are being submerged in, or every 12 hours with the high tides they are being submerged, they’re wet, they are being forced to remain cold.

This goes on throughout the year. And less than a few meters or kilometers away there’s the perfect habitat that used to be their homeland is (now) banned to them.

Seal populations have also been decimated by Namibia’s sealing industry. The commercial fishing industry is a threat to the lives of seal pups as well.

In the case of Cape Fur seals, by causing them to flee north, they've moved 2,000 kilometers north of their range. They’re now in double their temperature ranges, in water and on land. Since 1994, we've had several major mass starvations where all the pups have starved to death.

These are all the imbalances that man’s creating for the species. Man has subjected them to living on these awash rocks; the babies are struggling to try and survive, most will wash off and drown. If they're not being clubbed up in Namibia, which they club every little seal that's left, then they're getting shot by the fishing industry. So for a seal in our waters, life is very hard.

Despite their aquatic skills as adults, seal pups are relatively helpless in their first year of life. Their struggle for survival is a heart-wrenching tale.

The mothers have to raise their babies knowing their babies are going to drown when the perfect island lies literally meters away from them. This is the kind of absurdity that mankind has created in the natural world and the environment off our coastline.

Facing all these hazards, many seals get washed ashore injured and barely alive. With fate on their side, they will be rescued and nursed back to health by the loving Mr. Hugo.

A successful rehabilitation takes place after 12 months if there's a bond between the pup and myself, a mother and pup bond. That is the only way it works. And then that bond stays with you for the rest of your life. Whenever you see each other, you are inseparable, you are bonded for life after that.

I've had seals that you rescue on a particular month in the year, and they were obviously involved in their migratory path, either going north or south, traveling many, many kilometers away. And because each year, they’ll be back on that same migratory path, then they will stop in at my facilities and then they greet you and they spend a week or two with you and then off they go back in the annual cycle.

The thousands of successful seal rescues are a testimony to Mr. Hugo’s long hours of hard work and especially devoted love.

Every seal you form unique and amazing bonds with. But particularly with the babies because you become their adopted parent, they become your family and your children. And we’ve had, for example, my very first one, which was raised in my house, I never had facilities. I mean, he used to watch television with me. When I had to type reports, he’d be sitting in my lap typing reports. So he was almost a pet seal.

To have such an inner connection with these noble animal co-inhabitants is undoubtedly a privilege and unforgettable experience. Learning of Mr. Hugo’s concern and benevolent heart for the seals, Supreme Master Ching Hai made a US$200,000 contribution to further his seal protection work and later honored him with the Shining World Compassion Award.

Please join us next Thursday for the second episode of this two-part Shining World Compassion Award series featuring the presentation of the Award to Mr. Hugo and more about Seal Alert South Africa’s valiant efforts.

For more details on Seal Alert South Africa, please visit Or contact Francois Hugo at

Thank you loving viewers for your company today on Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants. May the universal power of love permeate your life.

We saw that there was a need in the community and people that just seemed to be losing hope.

Geoffrey Nighswonger and Genesis Williams of Los Angeles, USA founded H.A.N.D.S. On International to share love, friendship and hope with the homeless and others in need.

Every single Sunday, rain or shine, we basically cook for them and we give away clothes and then we talk to them, and we hang out with them, and just show them that we love them.

To find out more about the benevolent work of these kind-hearted angels, please watch Part 1 of “H.A.N.D.S. On International – Helping All Nations in Deeds and Service” this coming Sunday, January 10 on Good People, Good Works.
Everywhere in the world, we can observe and be touched by acts of kindness. People from all walks of life, faiths, and cultures extend themselves beyond the call of duty to help others unconditionally. Through their noble deeds, humanity as a whole is elevated.

To commend virtuous actions and encourage more people to be inspired by their examples, Supreme Master Ching Hai has lovingly created a series of awards, including the Shining World Leadership Award, Shining World Compassion Award, Shining World Hero and Heroine Awards, Shining World Honesty Award, Shining World Protection Award, Shining World Intelligence Award, and Shining World Inventor Award, to recognize some of the most exemplary, generous, caring, and courageous people who walk amongst us.

The sound of undulating waves engulfs one’s senses in the rhythmic heartbeat of the majestic ocean. Within the water, the seals inhabit this ethereal, marine realm. Graceful, aquatic acrobats, these precious creations of God, are in perfect communion with the divine in their oceanic world.

It’s just pure love; it’s love from my side, it’s love from their side, it’s just friendship. By dealing with them on such an in-depth level you just understand how life functions and what life is all about. And to me, one of the most rewarding things doing this is that you just feel alive every day or every minute.

Today, we present Part 2 of our program featuring Shining World Compassion Award recipient Francois Hugo, founder of the non-profit group Seal Alert South Africa.

My entire life has been in one way or another devoted to animals. I find their plight disturbing and wherever I can assist, I have. I have been involved in disentangling whales out of the sea. I have been involved in rescuing dogs that you find normally in the street that have been rundown. We’ve raised umpteen dozen penguins and seagulls, and dikers and the list goes on and on. So from that aspect, my arms are always open to what comes in.

Nowadays Francois Hugo’s sole mission in life is to help the endangered Cape Fur seals thrive again in their natural habitats.

We do about 1,000 rescues a year and that's my maximum type of situation. I only need to re-populate a single island with 100 babies being born on the island and they will form a breeding colony, in the scientific sense of the word.

The foundation to this is putting seals back on islands.

And to me, my faith always lies with the animal and keeping them alive. That’s my big thing.

Due to the determined efforts of seal activists like Mr. Hugo, the South African government recently announced good news for the Cape Fur seals.

We’ve been campaigning the government to allow seals to go back to the islands. They’ve now confirmed in a videotape and in presentations and in a workshop that the seals can go back to Robben Island, which is the largest island, it’s a former seal island, and that's significant. And they’ve also said that seals are free to repopulate Vondeling Island.

During his conservation work with Seal Alert, Mr. Hugo has met with the Prime Minister of Namibia, urging him to stop the nation’s annual seal cull or killing of seals to reduce their population. I additionally got the German Dutch minister Goether Von Bergen to actually write to the Namibian government, which was a very unusual precedent to have set, to appeal to them to please stop the cull.

And in addition to that, there was a process that was started some years back to ban (importation of) two species of seal, there's 30 species around the world, two species of seal in Europe. I got involved in that process, and in May this year (2009), I can proudly announce that the EU (European Union) has banned (importation) not just of two species but Cape Fur seals, and every other seal species around the world. So generally I've saved 18-million seals from ever being imported into the EU.

The cull made worldwide headlines in 2009as Seal Alert South Africa offered to buy out the entire Namibian seal industry, thus effectively ending this vicious practice. Mr. Hugo made the offer before the start of the 2009 seal culling season, which extends from July 1 to November 15.

A total of US$14 million was needed to be raised to stop the violence forever.

Upon hearing of this noble endeavor, Supreme Master Ching Hai lovingly pledged US$200,000 to the cause on June 29, 2009.

Currently Seal Alert is still working hard to raise enough funds to buy out the Namibian seal industry and forever halt the slaughter of seals.

I’m going to try and raise the money to now stop next year’s cull. In the meantime, what we’ve decided to do is, thanks to the wonderful grant that we’ve got from Supreme Master Ching Hai of US$200,000, we’ve managed to now come with a proactive response, such that if we can’t raise the money to stop the physical cull, we’re going to use the seals to repopulate the extinct islands. It’s a longer term plan, but it’s a plan that’s guaranteed, and so we’ve invested that money into the equipment to basically make the repopulation of these islands possible.

After these brief messages, Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants will return with the presentation of the Shining World Compassion Award to Mr. Francois Hugo of Seal Alert South Africa. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants featuring Shining World Compassion laureate Francois Hugo, founder of Seal Alert South Africa. Mr. Hugo’s dedication to seals is truly heartwarming.

There’s one word, and that’s love. I mean, that is the simple and easiest thing. You want to come here early in the morning to be with them, and you don’t want to go home.

And when you’re here, no matter how much there is suffering and pain and dying and death, there’s just love all around. They’re just incredible animals to be part of, and I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to share my life with them, and at the same time I really thank Supreme Master Ching Hai for the support she’s given us, because every minute that I have with them is a real gift. By the kind donation that she’s given us, we can now just really spend a lot more time with a lot more of them, which is a real blessing.

As it takes about 12 months to rehabilitate seal pups, the extra time Mr. Hugo is now able to invest in their care is a huge boon to their recovery. Even yearlings are not yet strong enough to swim against the current to reach safe shores, and it’s especially difficult for seals that have come from afar.

I've had a very special rescue this one, a Southern Arctic seal ‘from Galk Island which is 4,000 kilometers away. And what is very unusual is that only about 10 of these Southern Arctic seals reach our coastline alive each year. So it’s a very rare event but never before have the two species mixed or intermingled.

In addition to financial support, Supreme Master Ching Hai recently recognized Mr. Francois Hugo with the Shining World Compassion Award. Mr. Hugo’s crystal Award plaque was accompanied by a personal letter of commendation from her.

For your unlimited empathy and compassion for these voiceless and innocent creatures, for your vision, courage and benevolence, and for your boundless contribution building the store of love and spiritual elevation of our world, we hereby applaud and celebrate the great compassionate deeds of Mr. Francois Hugo, and the fearless and noble-hearted friends and supporters of Seal Alert SA. With Great Honour, Love and Blessings, Supreme Master Ching Hai

Thank you very much. This is indeed a great honor to receive something like this and her words are really inspirational.

Supreme Master Ching Hai, from the bottom of my heart, thank you very much for this. I will cherish this till the day that I die, and I hope to make you very proud.

We’ll have a special place in our center over here, which we will make a display stand for it, and everybody will see it with pride.

In addition, Mr. Hugo was presented with Supreme Master Ching Hai’s #1 international best-selling books “The Birds in My Life,” “The Dogs in My Life” and “The Noble Wilds,” along with a selection of her DVDs and CDs.

We are actually going to start a library at our center for this particular purpose. And people then can experience, if she doesn’t mind, her literature and her readings and her work when they come in for our seals.

One of the anonymous heroes of Seal Alert South Africa is Nelda, Mr. Hugo’s wife, who shares his passion and love for seals and fully supports her husband’s efforts to save these beautiful marine mammals.

François drove for twelve hours to go and fetch an animal, a little baby that was destined to die, lost its mother. (He)drove by car to fetch the baby and bring him back and raise him successfully to survive in the wild. That is real passion.

I’d like to thank Supreme Master Ching Hai for giving François the ability to even spend more time with the passion that he’s got, and freed him from other things that he had to concentrate on. And I thank her from the bottom of my heart, because now he can do more for seals.

Seals are amazing animals with the dignified purpose of helping to balance the Earth through their unconditional love. Thus, their existence on our planet and the need to protect their lives and oceanic home are vital to humanity’s survival.

The seals’ solution lies in us being informed. And I just hope that we become more informed more quickly. We’re already in the 21st century. It’s a bit disconcerting to myself, that is, we read standard things about that Cape Fur seals are X weight, X size, male and female, brown, black and white, and it’s really not anything about the species.

And that’s the frightening thing, is that how are we going to protect and love, and look after something if we don’t know anything about it? And this is why I think what Supreme Master Television is tremendous in doing; it needs follow up, it needs further discussion, it needs in-depth looks. And that is what will keep the species going into the future and alive.

We sincerely salute Mr. Hugo and all the other dedicated souls working to save our noble seal co-inhabitants. Blessed be their compassionate work toward ensuring a safe, harmonious world for all beings.

For more details on Seal Alert South Africa, please visit Or contact Francois Hugo at

It was a pleasure to have you with us for today’s Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for Enlightening Entertainment, coming up next after Noteworthy News. May Heaven’s grace bring joy, love and peace into your lives.

We’re working with organizations in Africa. We're working with the orphanage in Mexico. We're here locally in Southern California. We’re called to go and have (a) “hands on” attitude. We don't just go and talk the talk; we need to go on and walk the walk.

To find out more about their benevolent work, please watch Part 2 of “H.A.N.D.S. On International – Helping All Nations in Deeds and Service” this coming Sunday, January 17 on Good People, Good Works.

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