An unlikely mammal has taken the internet by storm and become a mascot for a small town along the coast of Australia.
Neil, a 1,300 pound seal hailing from Tasmania, is TikTok’s latest viral sensation. The lovable lug has been filmed knocking over traffic cones, vocalizing at locals and even napping behind a woman’s vehicle – causing her to miss work.
“If you aren’t on Neil the Seal TikTok, where the bloody hell are you,” one TikToker, posting on the official fan page for the animal, said in a video. “Neil the Seal craves attention and the internet is here for it.”
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The viral southern elephant seal was born in Salem Bay in 2020 and is one of nine pups born on the island between 1985 and 2022, according to Tasmania’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment. Neil was tagged by the department and has been spotted throughout southern Tasmania, becoming a fixture within the community.
“Neil the Seal just being an ocean puppy and not realizing he’s a TikTok superstar,” one user commented.
With the hashtag #neiltheseal earning over 131 million views on the app, it seems as though the entire world is smitten with Neil.
However, his rise to internet stardom has become a concern for conservationists. Tasmania’s Marine Conservation Program issued a statement in 2022, informing the public that Neil has successfully gained a “significant amount of weight” and was spotted in Woodbridge, a town along Tasmania’s southeastern coast.
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In April 2023, a second update was posted reminding the public to keep their distance from Neil as he hauled out on a local beach – explaining that the process is necessary for seals’ annual molt.
Within days, the agency was forced to relocate Neil to a secluded area and place a tracker on him, stating “some people haven’t taken our advice about staying away and have continued to gather” and that they will continue to keep an eye on his growth.
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Despite the warnings, videos showing locals coexisting with Neil have captured the hearts of viewers, with dedicated Instagram and TikTok pages showing his interactions with neighbors.
One video posted online shows a man using a hose to spray Neil with water as an observer can be heard saying, “it’s amazing what the locals will do for Neil the Seal”. Another clip captures Neil lounging on a beach as an onlooker teases the seal, calling him “Mr. Sleepyhead”.
As Neil’s fame continues to sweep the globe, he remains blissfully unaware of his coveted influencer status. The big-boned youngster spends his days as any marine mammal would – feasting on a diet of deep-sea squid, sunning himself by blocking roadways and occasionally getting into altercations with local authorities.
Perhaps the fascination with the seal can be summed up in one TikToker’s plea for him to stay away from traffic cones, as the user can be heard telling Neil, “now you’re just being seal-y”.
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