Cape Town - The Cape of Good Hope SPCA has rescued five seals from Hout Bay Harbour who were being exploited by “handlers” allegedly using them to get money from tourists.
The animal welfare organisation took legal action last week and obtained a court order from the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court for the seizure of five seals that were allegedly being used for selfies.
Chief inspector, Jaco Pieterse, says the seals have endured various illegal activities, including beatings, overfeeding and being forced to engage in various physical interactions with humans.
“This is all driven by human need for entertainment and financial gain. This is simply because of the financial reward paid to the seal ‘handlers’ who charge tourists for the opportunity to feed or engage with them and take photographs of their experience.”
Pieterse explains that these activities are illegal under the Threatened or Protected Marine Species Regulations 2017 and the City of Cape Town Coastal Marine By Law and says despite interventions which include the arrest of perpetrators and the issuing of fines by the authorities, including the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), the City’s Law Enforcement, and the SPCA, the activities have continued.
“Aside from being illegal, these actions are also morally reprehensible, because ultimately wild animals pay the price for human interactions. Aside from the cruel training methods that are being practised, the seals are unable to express their natural behaviours and are being grossly overfed.
“Two seals are obese, a condition that has resulted from their training, their inability to express their natural behaviour, including swimming and hunting for their own food, as well as being continuously fed by individuals who wish to pose for selfies or interact with a wild animal.
“In addition to this, the seals have become unnaturally accustomed to humans. This poses a danger to both humans and seals alike, with seals becoming reliant on humans for food and humans being placed at risk of injury when the expectation for food is not met.”
Over the weekend the SPCA team relocated the seals to an undisclosed location for their own protection and in the hopes that they will not be able to find their way back to the harbour again.
“Exploiting these wild animals for the sake of getting a good picture for your social media platforms is not only illegal, it is morally and ethically wrong. It perpetuates a cycle of abuse and cruelty.”