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B.C. man captures elephant seal giving birth in 'amazing' video

Within seconds of being born, the baby seal puts its front flippers on the ground. 

A video taken of an elephant seal giving birth shows an "amazing" glimpse into wildlife in British Columbia. 

Photographer Derek Sterling, an ecoguardian at Pearson College UWC, lives on Race Rocks off Vancouver Island for six months at a time.

He monitors the animals and their health and, on Jan. 13, he noticed one particular seal that seemed to be rather uncomfortable.

"I could tell the tone in her voice just changed a little bit and that was definitely the key that something was happening,” he tells Glacier Media.

Rushing to the basement, he set up his camera and filmed through the door from inside. 

The seal can be seen slightly moving around on the ground; as she twists and turns, the head of a seal pup is visible. She gives birth, looks behind and sees her pup moving. 

Within seconds of being born, the baby seal puts its front flippers on the ground. 

"It was... it was pretty awesome,” Sterling says. “It's just amazing to experience. I've not actually been here this time of year."

Sterling's footage captures another female seal, with her pup just out of the frame. Sterling explains the noise that can be heard in the video is her excitement for the baby.

“The new mother, instinctually, wasn't afraid of the animal attacking her young, but they have to bond in that first minute through audio so she was more concerned that the baby might be confused,” says Sterling. "That’s the only reason, 10 minutes later, they all flop down and they haven't been more than 10 feet apart.”

Race Rocks, sometimes called the Galapagos of the North and located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is a birthing rookery for harbour seals. It's the most northerly birthing colony of the northern elephant seal on the Pacific Coast. 

“Elephant seals were taken to the brink of extinction and now they're doing very well. So it's a good news story in a world of bad stories,” says Sterling. 

There are four different types of pinnipeds living on Race Rocks alone, he adds, hoping more are born soon. 

"It's amazing being out here. It is semi-isolated.” 

During his time there, which is 24/7, he acts in a stewardship role and says his favourite part is the atmosphere.

"Individual things like elephant seals and sea lions and birds are all very fascinating, [but] sometimes it's just sitting on a rock with a cup of tea and just absorbing the whole thing,” he says. 

Sterling notes this experience was rare, as there aren't many places you can monitor a birth that closely. 

The public cannot see the seals at this time. Those who are interested in checking out the newest addition can watch a live webcam