NAME: South African fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus)
SIZE: Males 2.5m, 200-300kg, females 1.6m, 50-75kg
DISTRIBUTION: Northern Namibia to Port Elizabeth. Endemic
DESCRIPTION: Adults are chocolate brown while juveniles are black. South African fur seals have two well developed front flippers, small external ears and large eyes.
Happy Friday all! Our clowns of the sea giving a great performance for me 😁
Posted by Pisces Divers Cape Town on Friday, 3 November 2017
NATURAL HISTORY: South African fur seals spend most of their lives at sea, hunting for fish such as anchovies and maasbanker. They also eat octopus and West Coast rock lobsters. They are a favoured food source of the great white shark. They can rotate their back flippers for waddling on land, and when swimming use their front flippers for propulsion. They are insulated by a double coat and thick subcutaneous blubber. The large male South African fur seals ‘haul out’ onto rocky breeding colonies in October and establish their territories. In November, the females haul out and the bulls establish harems of up to 50 cows. The females give birth almost immediately and mate with the bulls shortly thereafter. The fertilise I embryo is only implanted into the uterus four months later so that the 8-month gestation results in birth one year later when the females haul out again. Seal populations have been under serious pressure as a result of human activity. Sealing for the pups’ silky pelts resulted in massive population depletion and in South African fur seals being, protected by law in 1893. Despite millions of South African fur seals being selectively harvested in the 1900s, the seal population is again in the millions and many fishermen see seals as ‘robbers’ of fish. Many South African fur seals are illegally shot as a result. South African fur seals also suffer from plastic pollution. It is not uncommon to see seals with plastic straps around their necks, being slowly strangled. If South African fur seals are seen underwater, it is worth remembering that while they are playful, they are wild animals. They may bite and have sharp teeth with which to accomplish this. Tuck fingers away and keep your distance. They will sometimes bark underwater and are capable of suddenly coming very close to divers, which can be quite scary. Keep calm, move slowly and don’t try to touch them.
Familiarize yourself with these interesting creatures and other marine animals for your next dive. For more information grab a copy of this book “A Field Guide to the Marine Animals of the Cape Peninsula” by Georgina Jones available in Pisces Divers.