Steer clear of seals, warns Hout Bay Seal and Rescue Centre

Beachgoers watching a seal at Rocklands beach, Sea Point. Picture Armand Hough/ Indepedent Newspapers

Beachgoers watching a seal at Rocklands beach, Sea Point. Picture Armand Hough/ Indepedent Newspapers

Published Dec 19, 2023


Cape Town - With the Cape’s tourist season in full swing, excited visitors have been warned that seals around the coasts and harbours were wild and dangerous.

The Hout Bay Seal and Rescue Centre (HBSRC) has reminded visitors that seals should not be approached for photographing.

HBSRC assists seals who are in distress, rescuing the injured, sick or orphaned seals and facilitates their rehabilitation and return to their natural environment.

The centre operates 24/7 for each day of the year and is called out constantly for stranded and distressed seals.

HBSRC Operations director Kim Krynauw said: “First, it is extremely important to note that seals are wild, dangerous animals, they are not puppy dogs and are descendants from a common ancestor most closely related to modern bears. Seals do spend a lot of their time laying around during the day on rocks or beaches, and will return to the ocean to hunt. Seals can seem ‘clumsy’ on land but are able to run and charge at an alarming speed, that is why it is important to keep at least 30 metres away from seals at all times.”

Visitors have been urged not to put any water on a resting seal as the reason they’re on land was to get warm.

“It is birthing season now and you will be seeing black pups. Please, if you find a pup, call us immediately, pups cannot swim until they are four months old. Also, please if you are in a rubber dinghy, jet skis etc, stay away from the islands or rocks where there are seals, as this could cause stampedes and displaced and drowning pups,” Krynauw said.

When diving, it is also important to be mindful that seals are aggressive and during this period can be a lot more aggressive. This could also be as a result of lack of food.

Overfishing remains a huge threat to seals and all marine life, she said. Fishermen are known to shoot, gaff and club seals on land and while out on sea. Sangomas and witch doctors who pay for seal body parts also pose a threat to marine mammals.

Recently, in St Helena, a local fisherman attacked a mother seal by clubbing and threw the pup into the water. The baby was rescued and is now safe at the centre. The pup is one of 15 at the centre. Seals are also shot at sea and many are found with bullet wounds or spear/ gaff wounds, Krynauw said.

In St Helena Bay, a seal was shot in the back of the head while resting. In Strand, behind the pavilion, children beat a yearling to death with rocks, and another yearling was beaten to death using rocks in Hout Bay.

The HBSRC said it was also opposed to any feeding of seals and engagement with “feeders” who are at times aggressive. The organisation also advised against getting near a seal for photographs.

West Coast Seal project Jacques Nel said it was important for parents/ guardians to educate children on the environment and animals who live in it. People walking their dogs on beaches without leashes were also a major problem, he said, disturbing and causing distress to seals.

HBSRC can be contacted on 072 988 5193 or via email at [email protected]