As we enter summer, more people will flock to the beaches and could encounter a beached seal. Here are a few things you should know about seals before you approach them.
Seals are a part of the Pinniped family, being only partly aquatic, seals are able to spend up to 50% of their lives on land, which is a necessary adaptation for breeding and for ‘recharging their batteries’ by lying in the sun or avoiding treacherous sea conditions.
Seals do not have gills. Unlike other marine mammals, they do not have blowholes to inhale air and therefore all inhalation and exhalation happens through their nostrils. Just like humans, they are air-breathing mammals that inhale oxygen into their lungs and exhale carbon dioxide.
What to do if you see a beached seal?
Seals spend a lot of their time out of the water to digest their food and regain their strength. A beached seal could simply be resting and there may not necessarily be anything wrong – so do not approach, or try to chase him.
If you find a seal that you think is in distress, here are the signs you should look out for:
- – Malnutrition: such as visible ribs, hips and neck and/or wrinkled skin.
- – Sick: coughing, sneezing or noisy, rapid breathing and possibly thick mucus coming from the nose, wounds or swellings, particularly on flippers, cloudy eyes, or thick mucus around them.
- – Entanglement: from heavy commercial gear such as fishing lines/nets or wires
If you see any of the above, please call the Cape of Good Hope SPCA on 021 700 4158/9 or after hours on 083 326 1604 and our Wildlife Department will help.