Centre continues to save seals

A seal on the Hout Bay Harbour taking in some sunlight on Sunday March 22, but was later interrupted by people who started throwing stones and chasing the seal away.

A new breath of life has been breathed into the Hout Bay Seal Rescue Centre.

The centre, located on the Hout Bay Harbour, was recently upgraded, with repairs and maintenance done, and a new fence was erected to protect the seal pups from the older seals.

Kim Krynauw, administration director and volunteer at the centre, explained that the sole purpose of the centre was to rescue and rehabilitate Cape Fur Seal pups and yearlings, before integrating them back into their natural seal colony in Hout Bay.

“Our vision is to rescue, rehabilitate and sustain the continued population of the South African Cape Fur Seal, for future generations and to avoid extinction,” she said.

The centre, which is now registering as a non-profit organisation, was opened in 1999 by the late Francois Hugo. He founded the Seal Alert Centre in the harbour and this centre was, and still is, solely for the rescue and rehabilitation of the seals. Seals are released into their natural habitat, which is the ocean off the West Coast.

“We salute Francois, whose love of seals was beyond reproach and his legacy will be honoured by all who share his passion for seal rescue and rehabilitation, for decades to come,” Ms Krynauw said.

Since the passing of Mr Hugo back in 2018, the centre continued operating with volunteers, who Ms Krynauw said: “They have given selflessly of their time and resources”.

Duiker Island, just off Hout Bay, has become one of the top attractions in the Western Cape. However, the boat-loads of tourists who make the journey, are seldom aware of the plight of survival faced by the seal pups and yearlings, making it extremely challenging for them.

Ms Krynauw confirmed the prime breeding season for the seals was usually around November and December. “Some of the young seal pups that are born, are very often very thin and weak and they may be washed off the rocky islands and swept ashore by rough seas. These very young pups are often sick and injured, and require veterinary assistance and specialised feeding,” she added.

The Cape Fur Seal has been a protected animal since 1973, under the Sea Birds and Seal Protection Act, with only the state being allowed to cull seals at specific colonies.

The centre also drives campaigns of awareness and education directed towards the general public, to ensure the ongoing survival and sustainability of the seals.

“Our aim is to promote awareness around how the ocean and environmental issues impact the population of the Cape Fur Seals in South Africa, where plastics, fishing line and netting, can wrap around a seal’s neck or body, causing the seal great injury or harm,” Ms Krynauw said.

Part of the aims and objectives of the centre is also to raise funds to sustain the operations and provide resources for, and maintain, the centre at the harbour.

Heading up fund-raising is Marcel Viljoen who explained that although it was important to place emphasis on the core functions of the centre, it was equally important to make the public understand why donations and sponsorships were important to keep their operations afloat.

“As an NPO, we do not receive funding from the government and rely solely on donations and sponsorship from the public. We are needing to create awareness of the centre and also to appeal for donations towards the upkeep and running costs of the centre,” Ms Viljoen said. She added that the centre also intended growing their volunteer database and appealed to the public to jump on board. “The public is asked to join our group of volunteers who will assist with keeping watch, should larger seals beach for moulting, or for whatever reason,” Ms Viljoen said.

Volunteer co-ordinator, Yvonne de Kock, has been offering her time at the centre for several years, obtaining information on stranded seals and co-ordinating rescue efforts by using the volunteer group. She also sourced more volunteers and trained the volunteers at the same time on stress-free rescues.

“I volunteer for the Hout Bay Seal Rescue Centre, because I grew up on a farm and love all animals and I do not like to see them suffer unnecessarily and if no one is going to do anything about it, I can do something to help all beings, and seals. I want to show people that you can do something to make a difference,” Ms De Kock said.

If you wish to become a volunteer for the Hout Bay Seal Rescue Centre, contact Yvonne de Kock on 082 758 8708, to assist with seal rescues and seal watching when they beach, to assist in keeping dogs and people away from the seals.

Should you wish to donate to the upkeep and running costs of the centre, which is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, contact Kim Krynauw on 072 988 5193.

Ms Viljoen concluded by saying: “We are grateful for any amount of funding.”