Female Cape Fur Seal sighting at the Nahoon River, East London

On Wednesday (20 November 2019) a furry visitor hauled out at the Nahoon River for a bit of down time along the sandy banks. This adult female Cape Fur Seal is an endemic species along the South African coast and occasionally they venture east of their breeding area in Nelson Mandela Bay and take a break from rafting by coming ashore. Local resident Jenny Swartz contacted the museum and raised a concern about the safety of the seal. Visiting the site it was noted that the animal had no injuries and seemed in good health. Unfortunately if seals come ashore on bathing beaches the likelihood of being disturbed by dogs and people increases as was the case on Wednesday. An appeal is made to give the animal space and to leash dogs so as not to elicit the ‘fight or flight’ response from the seal. This sighting was reported on the Border Stranding network and seal expert Dr Greg Hofmeyr (Bayworld, Port Elizabeth) will log the stranding. He had previously stated that all coastal monitors should be on the look-out for seals coming ashore especially after inclement weather and rough sea conditions (as experienced last week).

Adult female Cape Fur Seal at the Nahoon River. Photo: Kevin Cole

Cape Fur Seals live along the coast from Port Elizabeth to the Angolan Border. Approximately 2 million seals live in this range. Males are larger than females. They can weigh up to 350 kg (females 90 kg) and reach a length of 2.3 m (females 1.6 m).  They feed primarily on shoaling fish and squid. We have had a number of records of the species hauling out over the years, mostly just to rest up before proceeding back to sea. At sea they like to raft at the surface, raising their flippers in the air. They have a porpoise action when travelling through the water and are sometimes referred to as ‘dogs of the sea’ with their notable bulbous nose and slightly upturned robust muzzles. They can dive to depths below 200 m and have a lifespan of up to 21 years. There may be more sightings in the coming months and members of the public are requested to contact the aquarium or the museum to report these.

The seal left the site at 7:15 pm swimming downstream through the river mouth and back out to sea.

About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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