A Southern Elephant seal has made himself at home on Fish Hoek Beach and Animal Ocean seal snorkeling experts are encouraging locals to steer clear of this marine animal as he undergoes the process of molting.
Animal Ocean based in Hout Bay, offers excursions to snorkelling spots in the area allowing visitors to swim with Cape Fur seals but they also strongly focus on marine environmentalism.
Dubbed Buffel, the elephant seal is currently relaxing on the beach while he molts and Animal Ocean founder, Steve Benjamin says this specific marine animal is no stranger in Cape Town.
“It is such an honour to have such a special visitor to the False Bay. The Southern Elephant seal that is resting on Fish Hoek beach is well known and fast becoming a true Capetonian.”
Buffel was spotted by local beach-goers on January 25 2019.
“I went down this evening to see for myself and found Buffel happily resting in the dunes. I chatted people in the area and it become clear that some info needed to be shared on the local community groups about this animal,” he said.
Benjamin explains the seal is probably from Marion Island, which is an estimated 2 100 km away and has reassured the public that the animal is alive.
“It is alive and healthy. It is just resting as it moults (sheds its old fur).”
Members of the public are strongly advised to not bother the animal or attempt to push it back into the ocean.
“Please leave it alone and DO NOT chase it back into the ocean.”
Molting is a process whereby seals shed the outer layers of their skin and fur. The whole process of molting must go undisturbed as it takes up to a month to be completed.
During this time seals are known to hurl themselves onto the beach and do not eat, causing them to be very vulnerable.
Animal Ocean says that Buffel must be left alone and that an influx of people are attempting to visit the animal, causing possible distress to the seal. It is not advisable to bother Buffel as he undergoes the process of molting. Beach-goers must keep their distance.
“It has no fear of humans or dogs. Its species does not ever encounter either and they have never developed a fear. It more likely see us as a big penguin,” said Benjamin.
Although there is speculation that Buffel killed the dead Cape seal found next to him, Benjamin has clarified these reports.
“The dead Cape Fur seal next to the Elephant seal was not caused by the Elephant seal, that was washed up from a strong South East wind.”
Buffel was tagged in Cape Point in November 2014 and is believed to be approximately 7 years of age and took residence at Duiker Island for three months last year.
Picture: Animal Ocean/ Steve Benjamin