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Public urged to report all sightings with dead and dying Cape fur seals

SEVERAL dead and dying seals can be seen along side the Sea Point promenade and all along the Atlantic coast. | Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)

SEVERAL dead and dying seals can be seen along side the Sea Point promenade and all along the Atlantic coast. | Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)

Published Nov 9, 2021


Cape Town - Concerned environmental groups and organisations involved in the investigation into the deaths of Cape fur seals have urged the public to report any affected seals they encounter along the shoreline to Sea Search Research and Conservation.

This comes after an alarming number of dead and dying seals continue to wash ashore along the coast of the Western Cape as a result of the Cape fur seal mortality event.

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The seals have been washing ashore since September but more and more people have been reporting their appearances along West Coast beaches.

Commenting under one of Sea Search’s seal updates on Facebook, a woman said: “I saw about 30-plus dead seals on a run between Kommetjie and Noordhoek on Saturday, and those are just the very visible ones on the sand, there must be tons more between the rocks. Something is seriously wrong.”

Stellenbosch University senior lecturer and Sea Search co-director Tess Gridley said: “We are collating records from now up until end-December to further our understanding on the current die off.”

Should anyone encounter a dead seal along the shoreline, local government MEC Anton Bredell advised the public to contact the Sea Search team by emailing [email protected] with a picture, location and date – or contact their local council to assist.

Melkbosstrand was littered with about 30 young seal pups earlier this month. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Alternatively, SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abraham requested all who encounter a beached seal to record a location pin and inform their Wildlife department by calling 021 700 4158/9 or emailing [email protected]

“We are doing what we can but it is not enough to really understand the cause of the seal die-off currently. We need to do more pathology testing at the vet lab which is pricey, we need to travel north to see what's happening there and we need more time to collate all the records sent to us by valuable and concerned members of the public – the true citizen scientists,” said Gridley.

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Sea Search said government departments apparently had no budget for further testing and implored the public to support this work by donating towards their research and investigative efforts.

Bredell said the department was aware of the dying seals that have been washing up along the coast, with disaster management officials having noted the dying seals in their reports over the past few weeks and that the seals appeared to be dying due to malnutrition – but the situation was still being investigated.

“The experts say that some deaths among seal populations at this time of the year can be expected. However, what we are seeing is an abnormally high number of animals sick and dying on the coastline.

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“We are committed to finding out why and the State Veterinary service is already conducting tests on dead seals to determine the cause of these deaths. This report is expected this week.”

Bredell said experts agreed that the seal deaths were not likely to be caused by the ongoing Avian Influenza epidemic affecting wild sea birds in the Western Cape.

Those wanting to support the groups assisting in this response effort through financial donations could donate to Sea Search Research and Conservation, Hout Bay Seal Rescue Centre and to the Owl Orphanage.

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  • Sea Search Research and Conservation -
  • Hout Bay Seal Rescue Centre -
  • Owl Orphanage: (FNB: Acc no. 62786212771, Branch 200710, Reference: name /organization)

[email protected]

Cape Argus