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23 Oct 2023

City and SPCA express outrage after public’s ‘harassment’ of seal at Strand Beach

Zintle Mdaka (Cape Tmes) Picture: Cape Times. City and SPCA express outrage after public’s ‘harassment’ of seal at Strand Beach©

The City and Cape of Good Hope (CoGH) SPCA have condemned the public’s harassment of a seal at Strand Beach that later died due to excessive stress.

“After days of repeated harassment by members of the public on Strand Beach, an adult seal eventually attacked and bit a visitor who walked into the seal on the beach late on Wednesday evening, October 18, after not seeing the animal.

“After the attack, the woman was taken to hospital by paramedics where her bite wound was treated.

“The City was in contact with the victim again on Thursday morning when she was back at the hospital having her wound cleaned and she remains in high spirits.

“The City will remain in contact with her over the next week to ensure that she is fine and recovers fully,” the City said.

The City’s deputy mayor and MAYCO member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Eddie Andrews, said the seal was harassed.

“Over the last few days, this seal was simply trying to rest on the beach which is normal and expected seal behaviour on our coastline. However, the seal has had stones and rocks thrown at it, been prodded with sticks, had dogs attack it and many members of the public tease it so that they can take footage of the seal chasing them. I would like to advise all beach goers that it is illegal to harass any coastal wildlife and the responsibility rests with the public to keep their distance,” said Andrews.

The City said it had to close a portion of the beach on Thursday so that the SPCA Wildlife Unit together with Coastal Management, and with permission of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), could safely capture and remove the seal.

“The seal was transported by the SPCA to the Two Oceans Aquarium for assessment by their wildlife veterinarian to get a health clearance for release at a safe location away from people, but sadly the seal died from the excessive stress.

“We ask that all residents and beachgoers in Cape Town, leave these animals in peace should they come across them. This is sadly a very common outcome when seals are stressed through harassment or capture and is the main reason why DFFE, the City and the SPCA do not capture and relocate seals as the mortality rate due to stress of capture is very high,” said Andrews.

CoGH SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abraham said the organisation was saddened by the incident.

“We send our wishes to the injured visitor for a speedy recovery. This seal had unfortunately been teased and harassed extensively prior to the biting incident. We urge the public to act responsibly and respectfully when encountering wildlife in their natural habitats. Harassing or teasing animals for the sake of social media content is not only unethical, it can have fatal consequences for wild animals who can die from stress. Please have compassion and respect for resting seals, keep your distance and keep dogs away from them as well,” said Abraham.