SPCA relocates harbour seals

Five Hout Bay Harbour seals were seized by the Cape of Good Hope SPCA and taken to an undisclosed location for their safety this past weekend. Pictures: Belinda Abraham

Five seals were seized from Hout Bay’s Harbour in an operation led by the SPCA, after there were reports that the animals were subjected to abuse and exploitation.

The Cape of Good Hope SPCA removed the seals on Wednesday November 8 after obtaining a court order, said spokeswoman Belinda Abraham.

“The seals have endured various illegal activities, including beatings, overfeeding and being forced to engage in various physical interactions with humans. This is simply because of the financial reward paid to the seal ‘handlers’, who charge tourists for the opportunity to feed or engage with them and take photographs of their experience.

“All of these activities are illegal under the Threatened or Protected Marine Species Regulations 2017 and the City of Cape Town Coastal Marine By-Law, and despite interventions (including the arrest of perpetrators and the issuing of fines) by the authorities, including the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), the City’s Law Enforcement, and the SPCA, the activities have continued,“ she said.

Two of the seals had been found to be obese, she said.

“This is a direct result of overfeeding and not being allowed to express their natural behaviours like swimming and hunting for their own food. Obesity is an unheard of condition in wild animals living in the wild. Our investigation is ongoing.”

Asked whether any of the “seal handlers” had been fined on the day of the seizure, City spokeswoman Vennessa Scholtz said: “The operation was led by the SPCA. Law Enforcement was only there as support.”

This past weekend, the seals had been relocated 900km away to an undisclosed location for their own protection and in the hope that they would not be able to find their way back to the harbour, Ms Abraham said.

“We hope that this will afford them the opportunity to live in an environment free of coercion and abuse and where they can freely express their natural behaviours. We went the distance for them, quite literally, but it was worth it,” she added

Ms Abraham said the SPCA had sought the court order after receiving a report about a seal being beaten with a wooden plank. “There was no warning given,” she added.

The SPCA would monitor Hout Bay Harbour to ensure there was no future abuse and exploitation.

“We will remain vigilant, but we are calling on the support of the public who have regard for wildlife to please report cruelty by calling us on 021 7004 158/9 or 083 326 1604 after hours.”

The seals being transported in horse boxes to a new home 900km away from Hout Bay Harbour.