Sub-Antarctic fur seal record from Bira, Eastern Cape

Mrs Lynne Arnett reported a young sub-Antarctic fur seal, Arctocepahlus tropicalis, which had come ashore along the Bira coast on Tuesday 30th August 2016. Unfortunately the animal died this past weekend.

Young sub-Antarctic fur seal Photo credit: Lynn Arnett

Young sub-Antarctic fur seal, Bira EC. Photo credit: Lynn Arnett

The last reported record for a sub-Antarctic seal along our coastline was at Kidd’s Beach on the 4th September 2013. This animal was a young female which left the area after a day or so. The record to date for a large male still stands for a bull that hauled out at Bonza Bay (May 2007). See previous posts for these records.

Our endemic fur seal species is, Arctocephalus pusillus, the Cape fur seal. They are often seen rafting along our coastline and sometimes haul out on the rocks around East London for brief periods of time.

A third fur seal species which inhabits the colder south polar region, Arctocephalus gazella, the Antarctic fur seal has not been recorded in recent times as a vagrant along our shores.

The sub-Antarctic fur seal is distinguished from our local seal by the creamy white colour of the throat and chest which extends upwards to the level of the ears and continues around the eyes and across the bridge of the nose. See photo below.

IMG-20160901-WA0007

The exhausted Bira sub-Antarctic fur seal. Photo: Lynn Arnett

These seals breed on the sub-Antarctic islands, including the South African Prince Edward Island and Marion Island. They feed mainly on midwater shoaling fish and squid. Sometimes they may take small penguins. Breeding and pupping season extends for November to early January and pups are born mainly during mid-December (reared over a 10-11 month period). Newborn pups weigh between 2.6 and 6.3 kg.

Sadly, with the increase in plastic pollution in our oceans these seals get entangled in fish netting and packing straps.

Siani Tinley, Chief Marine Services BCMM is thanked for reporting the find to museum scientist, Kevin Cole.

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About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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