Dangerous trick for the tourist dollar

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iol travel jan 17 seal INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS A tourist feeds the seal as she is photographed by friends in Hout Bay harbour. Blits has been making money by charging R10 per picture. Picture: Andrew Ingram

Cape Town - Over three years ago a child was bitten in the face while feeding a seal at Hout Bay harbour – and now other children are renewing this dangerous trick in front of tourists, hoping to cadge a few rand.

On Sunday former harbour master Pat Stacey spotted young boys feeding seals by holding fish in their mouths for seals to catch.

Stacey and others have condemned the practice which they say could lead to a repeat of a 2009 incident where a 14-year-old boy was hanging over the edge of the jetty with a fish held in his mouth when a seal jumped from the water and bit him on his mouth.

The boy was rushed to hospital where his face was stitched back together. “We always had a problem with people feedings seals, it was a constant battle and now it’s carrying on. I noticed harbour officials were on duty and couldn’t understand why they just couldn’t stop these children,” Stacey said.

Children from the area attract tourists for money with the act, which is illegal, under the Seabirds and Seals Protection Act of 1973.

After the 2009 incident, the Department of Environmental Affairs vowed to prosecute people who continued to feed seals despite warning signs at the harbours.

Danny “Blitz” Abrahams, a famous Hout Bay local who fed seals for many years previously faced charges brought by Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) under the act.

He enticed a large male seal known as “Pietie Boy” on to the jetty where he fed it fish and charged tourists R10 to be photographed sitting on the animal. Stacey said: “These animals are very dangerous and if this is still happening, it is going to be a problem for authorities.

“They need to take people to task because there is legislation that outlaws this.”

He said the public should also not encourage the practice by paying the children to feed the seals.

“This could again become a very problematic situation. That youngster just leaned right down to feed the seal, it’s really dangerous. The seal could take part of his face away,” Stacey added. - Cape Times

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