During May, three Sub-Antartic Fur Seals(Arctocephalustropicalis) graced the beaches around Mossel Bay. These seals come from the Southern Indian-, Atlantic- and Pacific oceans and the largest breeding colony is at Gough Island, which is approximately 3000km away. Annually these “Subbies” embark on a trip from these islands and end up on our beaches – extremely tired and sometimes in a very bad state. They are smaller than the Cape Fur Seal and have a distinct reddish brown belly with a little tuft of fur on the head. They have larger eyes as well. They normally feed on squid and pellargic fish.
The first seal was a beautiful adult male that was reported at Santos Beach in Mossel Bay. He was named Mr Munro as he was lying on a rock at Munro Bay. He was monitored all day and slipped into the water at around 19:00. He was seen again two days later lying high up on the beach near the parking area at Little Brak River beach. Again he was monitored until he decided at around 18:00 that he was rested enough to go back into the ocean. Three days later, another Subbie was reported at the Point. As it was also the day of the Royal wedding – this male was named Prince Harry. He was a beautiful white faced specimen and provided the S.M.A.R.T volunteers the opportunity to not only watch him, but also inform the public about these strangers to our shores. He also went into the water as the sun set. The following day, once again a report was received and a very thin and weak female was at Munro Bay. Of course she was named Meghan and the team had to capture her for treatment at Dr Frans De Graaff. The team members went in every day to help feed her and a special ramp was built so that she could get in and out of her little pool. She weighed only 17 kilograms when found and in two weeks she gained 3 kilos and started to look better. She was getting used to belly rubs and showed quite a cute character which made her a very popular feature at the Hartenbos Animal Hospital. Unfortunately, Meghan passed away suddenly and according to Dr Greg Hoffmeyer at Bayworld in Port Elizabeth, this happens frequently.
Although not endangered, these are very special animals to have on our beaches and should be reported. Volunteers of S.M.A.R.T will monitor the animal by providing a large perimeter and keeping a watchful eye out for any abnormal behaviour. Mostly they are just very tired and need to rest but if, like in the case with Meghan, they will be captured for treatment. If they do survive, they will be transported to Bayworld where they will be released in group(preferably) into the Agulhas current.
If found on beaches, please keep a safe distance, watch the animal and contact S.M.A.R.T immediately at 072 227 4715.