18 January 2017

"Stranded" seals: What to do (and not to do)

Two Oceans Aquarium
Photo courtesy DragonWoman

It is that time of the year again when young Cape fur seals are seen on Cape Town's beaches and rocky shores. Yearlings between one and two years of age, as well as young seal pups, are being sighted by concerned members of the public. The Two Oceans Aquarium is often called upon to help move these seals and, while we do interact with wild Cape fur seals as part of our conservation work, we are restricted to the V&A Waterfront harbour and marina. We unfortunately do not have the facilities or the expertise to take in wild seals of any age or size. 

Here's what to do if you see a seal on our shores. In short: This is a job for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). They are very experienced and are responsible for dealing with these animals. Contact them on 021 700 4140.

Look but don’t touch

The yearlings have been weaned from their mothers and are just beginning to fend for themselves. It is best to leave them alone so that they can rest. Contrary to what some people may think, seals can and do leave the water and spend quite a bit of time on land, resting or basking in the sun.

Some of the very young pups are often thin and weak. They may have been washed off the rocky islands and swept ashore by rough seas. As wild animals and part of the natural cycle of life, it is inevitable that some of these youngsters will not make it to adulthood.

Well-meaning people often find it distressing to see baby seals “stranded” on the beaches and want to do something to assist them. However, the Two Oceans Aquarium strongly recommends that the animals are left where they are and are not caused any unnecessary stress.

While the Aquarium is a conservation-oriented organisation, we unfortunately do not have the facilities or the expertise to take in wild seals of any age or size. The very young pups require specialised feeding and sick or injured pups may require veterinary assistance, which the Aquarium cannot provide.

A happy seal on our Seal Platform

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which is responsible for dealing with these animals, can be contacted on 021 700 4140.

What to do if you find a seal on the beach

  • Keep dogs and children away from the seal.
  • Do not try to touch the animal – seals are wild and will give you a nasty bite because they feel threatened.
  • Do not try to move the animal – leave it where it is and disturb it as little as possible.
  • Do not pour water on seals on the beach – they will not dry out. All this does is cause unnecessary stress for these animals.
  • If you see a seal that is bleeding or having convulsions, please contact the SPCA’s Wildlife Unit on +27 21 700 4140 (office hours) or +27 (0)83 326 1604 (after hours). An inspector will be dispatched to assess the animal and make a decision as to what is in the best interests of the animal.

In previous blog posts we have spoken about the work done by Two Oceans Aquarium staff members Claire Taylor and Vincent Calder to assist seals that have nooses of plastic, fishing line and so on around their necks. Read more about it here.

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