SYL46 aka Brolley

  • Juvenile female Grey seal 'Brolley', South Devon, UK
  • Juvenile female Grey seal 'Brolley', South Devon, UK
  • Juvenile female Grey seal 'Brolley', South Devon, UK
  • Juvenile female Grey seal 'Brolley', South Devon, UK
  • Juvenile female Grey seal 'Brolley', South Devon, UK

Grey seal SYL46 (name changed to protect her identity), is a juvenile female: nicknamed Brolley, because she was first seen playing with an abandoned umbrella. She was kindly identified for me by the Cornwall Seal Group research Trust.

She was among a small group who approached Susi and I while we were swimming along the Devon coast last weekend. Two of them stuck with us, playfully testing us out for about half an hour, as we swam half a kilometre back to the rocky ledge we started from.

This is a wild animal, and a predator with little to fear in UK waters except humans and killer whales. Her agility in the water is wonderful, but what struck me most was her awareness of us, as other thinking creatures. She alternated rushing up to look at my face, and creeping up behind me to nip my fins. She knew what I knew and what I didn’t know. Clearly she knew I was another creature with perceptions and knowledge which were different to her own.
Does this mean SYL46 Brolley has a theory of mind?

‘Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states — beliefs, intents, desires, emotions, knowledge, etc. — to oneself and to others.’
Wikipedia

Answers on a postcard please.

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