Seal Island, Mossel Bay has been an attraction for many years as the beautiful Cape Fur Seal (Arctocephalus pusillus) is found on the island. The Cape Fur Seal is easily recognised as it is an eared seal and has a dark grey to brown coloured coat with the males much larger than the females. Seal pups are born black and moult to show the beautiful olive-grey colour.
The S.M.A.R.T volunteers usually have their hands full in November – December when many of these seal pups are found on the Mossel Bay beaches. The Cape Fur Seal is one of the only seal species that breed along the South African coast, although we do, from time to time, receive visitors from other areas. Cape Fur Seals are found from Port Elizabeth all the way to Northern Namibia and there are a number of breeding colonies in this area of which Seal Island, Mossel Bay is one.
In late November, early December the females will remain on land and give birth to their pups. During the first three months of the pup’s life, the mother will spend two to three days on land and three to four days at sea, hunting for food. During that time, the pups are all left in a crèche area until the mom gets back with the food. It is during this time that weather conditions and rough seas cause some of the pups to wash onto the Mossel Bay beaches where the S.M.A.R.T volunteers collect them and transport them to Dr. Frans de Graaff at the Hartenbos Animal Hospital for a check-up. Once given a clean bill of health, they are returned to Seal Island by boat. The public are urged to please not put the pups back into the water as they are exhausted and usually too weak to swim.
In 2014, four hundred and twenty (420) seal pups were collected between Hartenbos Beach and Dias Beach which meant that all volunteers were scouring beaches and running to and fro.
In the meantime, on returning to the island, the mother will call for her pup and the pup will answer with a unique call. Much like us knowing the sound of our parents / children’s voices.
Once the pup and mother unite, they will sniff each other and only the mother will feed the pup with a specific identifying smell. After approximately four to six months, the pups are weaned and then they start looking for their own food. Many of these young seals are found on our beaches and then monitored by the S.M.A.R.T volunteers, as they get tired and rest on the beaches.
We appeal to the public to please contact S.M.A.R.T on 072 227 4715 when seal pups, seal yearlings or adult seals are seen on the beaches. At times, these animals may only be resting, especially in the case of yearlings or adults and they will then be monitored. In the case of seal pups, they will be collected and transported back to the Island after a veterinary inspection. The S.M.A.R.T volunteers always love seeing the pups reunited with their mothers and it all makes for a very happy ending!