AT 1.30pm yesterday a shop in Milnerton’s Cape Grand China shopping mall had boxes of fur seal penises on display in gift boxes carrying price tags of between R8 400 and R10 200 each.
A couple of hours later when CapeNature officials went to check if the shop staff had the necessary permits, the seal penises had disappeared and the shop assistants claimed not to know what the officials were talking about.
The Cape Times visited the shop yesterday with Megan Reid, acting head of the SPCA’s wildlife section. On a shelf above the counter were several boxes containing long black objects labelled “seal penises”. There were also boxes of Namibian “fur seal oil” for R180 a bottle and seal genitalia capsules. The brand name was Namibian Sunshine.
A local reporter said yesterday when he asked the shop assistant what the seal penises were used for, the man had replied: “For power”, and then winked.
Allan Perrins, head of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, said yesterday his organisation had been tipped off about the seal penises for sale by a member of the public who had phoned a local radio station about them.
“We were working on the assumption that it is unlawful to trade in seal genitalia. It’s just getting a bit much. You have lion penises for the Asian market, lion bones and now seal penises.”
The SPCA has no jurisdiction in the matter of importing wild animals carcasses or parts of carcasses, so alerted the Oceans and Coast branch of the Department of Environmental Affairs and CapeNature.
Meanwhile, Perrins dispatched Reid to gather information about the merchandise. But when Reid began asking questions the shop assistant, Wu Hong, replied: “No English” to each question.
Paul Gildenhuys, head of CapeNature’s law enforcement, said yesterday if the penises were from Cape fur seals the seller needed a permit from CapeNature to import them into South Africa. “The Cape fur seal is on Cites list 2, which means it is a protected wild animal, so you would need a permit. Also, no one can import any wild animal or wild animal carcass into South Africa without the proper documentation and without a permit.”
Gildenhuys said the SPCA had called the CapeNature officers to assist yesterday after visiting the shop, as the matter fell within CapeNature’s jurisdiction. “But when our guys arrived there, there was nothing. No seal genitalia, no seal oil, it had all gone. Without that, we can do nothing.”
Cape fur seal are commercially hunted in Namibia, the only country in the mammals’ range in which it is allowed.
In South Africa seals are protected.
Referred to as the annual “seal cull”, the practice is sanctioned by the Namibian government but has drawn vociferous opposition from environmental and animal protection groups.
Around 80 000 seal pups are killed annually and up to 6 000 bulls. The fat and fur is sold as well as the genitalia from the bulls, mainly to Asian markets.