290514. Cape Town. Wu Hong (left) talks to Megan Reid from the SPCA. The SPCA confirmed today that a shop in China Town Paddocks (Milnerton)is selling Namibian seal genitals. The SPCA handed the information over to the DOF and further investigation will follow. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus

Cape Town - The SPCA and CapeNature are investigating reports that bull seal genitalia are selling for high prices at Milnerton Paddocks’ China Town shopping complex.

The Cape Argus visited the shop on Thursday after being told of a tip-off to the SPCA. Soon afterwards, Megan Reid, senior SPCA wildlife unit supervisor, entered the shop, which sells cheap Chinese imports. She said the products appeared to be “authentic”.

About 30cm long, the five shrivelled organs were in transparent plastic cases behind the counter, labelled “Fur Seal Genitalia From Namibia”, and priced between R8 000 and R10 000. Alongside were “Furseal Oil Capsules” labelled “Namibian Sunshine”. A Google search for this company yielded no results.

Before the shopkeeper’s suspicions were raised by Reid’s arrival, he allowed the Cape Argus to handle and photograph the products. He said they “gave men power”. Asked whether the products were locally sourced or imported, he said: “Namibia.”

In 2009 the examiner.com news website reported that seal penises and testicles were the primary ingredients in popular performance-enhancing supplements used by Chinese athletes.

The Cape Argus could not get official comment from the Department of Environmental Affairs by the time of publication, but a source in the department, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed a person would need a permit under the Seabirds and Seals Protection Act to possess a seal or a part of an animal. Importing such items across international borders would require an additional permit.

Cape of Good Hope SPCA chief executive Allan Perrins said he feared low fines for permit transgression might not be enough to deter the trade. “If fishermen know they may be able to sell seal genitalia for several thousand rand our worry is they will be at risk from desperate fisherman and we could see the wholesale slaughter of our seal populations.”

Punitive measures against illegal poachers and traders were important, but he stressed the need for public education about the “risks of consuming animal parts that may be harmful to their health and of no real benefit”.

When an inspector from CapeNature’s biodiversity crimes unit arrived at the shop the products had been removed.

The shop owner could not produce a CapeNature permit and the SPCA and CapeNature would return to the premises with a search warrant on Friday, Perrins said.

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Cape Argus