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The Cape Fur Seal

Also called the dogs of the ocean, because Seals are playful and naturally inquisitive. 

Seals live both on land and in the ocean. Females give birth to a single pup between mid November to late December. After giving birth on land, the female returns to the ocean to feed after suckling her pup for about 3 days. Pups are nursed by their mother for 8 – 10 Months. Pups are born black and molt to olive-grey towards the end of February and May. Pups are not born with blubber, thus they cannot swim.  It takes about 3 months before they can make their way to the water and swim confidently on their own. Pups depend on their mother completely, for nutrition and protection. Females reach sexual maturity by the age of 3 and males at the age between 9 – 12 years. Seals can live up to 25 years old.

The Cape Fur Seal can dive up to 200m deep and spend about 30% of their time at sea. They feed mainly on fish, crayfish, squid, octopus and even birds on occasion. Seals only consume about 11% of their body weight in food daily.

 

The Cape Fur Seal can be found all the way from Algoa Bay to the Southern Tip of Angola with an estimated total count between 1.5 – 2 million. In Namibia culling is still legal with a yearly quota of 85 000 pups for their fur and 8 000 adult males for their genitalia (for the aphrodisiac market in the Far East).

 

There are many natural causes of death, from decease, eaten by Sharks and Orcas, orphaned pups starving, old age and injuries due to weather conditions.  Many seals also gets killed by drowning when caught in fishing nets, pollution like plastic and oils, by dogs on the beaches and of course humans.

 

Some people believe that Seals are in competition with the fishing industry by stealing their fish, although the ocean is home to the Seals and that is their food basket.

 

Many believe that Fishermen as a while, kills Seals. This is not true for it is individuals who kill seals on land and in the water.

 

Seals stress very easily. When Seals stress they get a fever and their organs start to shut down. This happens most on beaches where people feel they need to save a Seal. These are wild animals and they don’t do well with people or dogs getting close to them.

When one finds a Seal on the beach, please keep your distance. To try and put a Seal back into the water can be deadly for them. Too young a pup will drown if placed in the water. Older Seals can die of shock if placed in the water and it is not their choice. The best thing to do is to leave any Seal alone, give it space and keep dogs away. Seals naturally rest on beaches and rocks.

Do not feed Seals at all. Because they are like puppies, Seals will come back for more once fed by humans. When Seals associate humans with food, they become a problem. If this particular seal doesn’t get food from humans it will become aggressive and will bite. This itself becomes a big problem for Fishermen when a Seal comes looking for food on a boat. This can put the Seal’s life in danger as well as the life of the Fisherman.

 

The law on the Seabird and Mammal 1973 Act is very clear on the protection of Seals. It is stated that no one may feed, touch, move or kill any Seals. This Act also prohibits any weapons on board any boat, which can be used to kill Seals.

Due to Climate Change and Pollution, we have a responsibility to care for and look after our environment now more so than ever before.

 

Working together with our Municipalities and the Department of Environmental Affairs, we at The West Coast Seal Project aims to bring awareness and find solutions to protect our Seals.

For any further information please contact Jacques Nel from West Coast Seal Project on 072 040 5465

digital@escapemagazine.co.za

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