The Cape Fur Seal mortality event unfolding along the West Coast has been occurring since September. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
The Cape Fur Seal mortality event unfolding along the West Coast has been occurring since September. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Frustration at the delay in release of Cape seal post-mortem results

By Kristin Engel Time of article published Nov 23, 2021

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Cape Town - With dead and dying Cape Fur seals continuing to wash ashore on the West Coast as part of the mass seal mortality event that has been occurring since September, researchers investigating the causes were frustrated by the delay in results of the seal post-mortems from the state vet after providing the necessary information.

Sea Search Research and Conservation operations manager and principal scientist Tess Gridley said: “We currently do not have a full understanding of why 2021 has seen an abnormally high mortality of fur seals, and have been working all hours to investigate this systematically.”

Gridley said some were probably dying of natural causes, some from malnutrition, but a proper investigation was warranted in case it was something else.

“We can’t help feeling let down and frustrated by the delay in results from the state vet, and although we facilitated the collection of samples to go for testing – submitted in October 21 with about eight animals tested, as per the department's request – there has yet to be official communication of the results. Almost one month on and the animals are still suffering,” said Gridley.

Sea Search has been working with the SPCA, Two Oceans Aquarium, Hout Bay Seal Rescue, Shark Spotters, Animal Ocean and the City of Cape Town to collect as much information as possible, and urges the public to continue to report dead and dying seals over the coming weeks to [email protected]

The Cape Fur Seal mortality event unfolding along the West Coast has been occurring since September. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abraham said: “The Cape of Good Hope SPCA continues to respond to beached seals across the various beaches. Our team is working closely with the relevant authorities to determine the cause of all the deaths.

“All findings to date have been inconclusive and we await the results of further testing.”

Abraham said the SPCA was covering the costs of some post-mortems in the hope of speeding up the process.

To further emphasise the plight of seals, the Two Oceans Aquarium will be hosting a special speaker evening and panel discussion on Thursday at 6.30pm focusing on seal rescues at the V&A Waterfront and the Port of Cape Town, with a special screening of the film Saving Seals by local filmmaker and conservation ambassador of Animal Ocean Seal Snorkelling, Steve Benjamin.

Two Oceans Aquarium spokesperson Renée Leeuwner said the event would introduce attendees to the issues around seal rescues in the Waterfront and the Port of Cape Town, and to the people who were actively doing the rescues and the disentanglement of seals, but it was not suitable for children under the age of 13.

“Saving Seals, the film, focuses on the plight of Cape fur seals and the real threat of them becoming entangled in plastic litter.

“This film highlights the passion and drive that the staff of the Two Oceans Aquarium and the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation have for ocean wildlife. It shows the innovative and creative ways in which they help distressed creatures – never giving up, and making a difference in the lives of these animals,” said Benjamin.

Those interested in learning more and attending can visit: https://www.aquarium.co.za/blog/entry/saving-seals-join-an-evening-about-rescuing-cape-towns-seals-on-25-november

Provincial Agriculture Animal Health director Moses Mabunda said preliminary results had long been shared with the client, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, and there was no hold up of results.

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