Harassment of fur seals cause for concern
Increase in incidents noted
SOUTH AFRICA: Incidents of harassment of Cape fur seals have become a cause for concern as members of the public have been reportedly throwing stones at seals, enticing them to chase people for social media footage and even hitting seals with paddles while canoeing. In one case a seal was fatally injured.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), has issued a statement reminding the public that the Threatened or Protected Marine Species Regulations, 2017, lists seals as a protected species.
Working closely with the SPCA, DFFE recently brought charges against four individuals who were apprehended for stoning a seal that succumbed to its injuries. The perpetrators were successfully convicted and sentenced in the Khayelitsha Magistrates Court.
Physical interaction with, and feeding of, seals is not only dangerous to the humans and seals involved, but is prohibited, and therefore a criminal offence. It would appear that the desire for social media footage has exacerbated these interactions. In some areas people are encouraged to pay for the opportunity to feed seals to allow for photo opportunities.
The DFFE also reports an alleged drowning of two seals by members of the public.
Cape fur seals are wild animals and have been known to become unpredictably aggressive towards humans, particularly when harassed, resulting in serious injuries. The Department emphasises that the activities currently taking place constitutes harassment and are therefore a criminal offence.
According to the DFFE, there are measures in place to rehabilitate or provide medical care to any seal should the need arise. They ask that the public report any concerns they have to the Department, the SPCA or the City of Cape Town.
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