It seems Buffel has decided to haul out for his annual moult in Hermanus this year! He has been seen around many of our beaches over the last couple of years. He is identifiable by a scar above one eye (left) and flipper tag #16577.
Southern Elephant seals are normally found in the Southern Ocean, with the closest colony being Marion Island, almost 2,000 km away from Cape Town.
So sightings of the species are rare although it’s rumoured that Buffel was born on our Cape shores to a displaced mother. He was first spotted around 2016 and has been hauled out for his annual moult on many Cape Town beaches from Llandudno to Fish Hoek since then. Most haul-out sites are on Sub Antarctic and Antarctic islands which makes sightings of Buffel even more exciting.
Buffel may look a little exhausted and a little thin as Elephant Seals do not hunt during a moult, he’ll be relying on his blubber reserves to sustain him for around a month while he sheds his skin. He is not sick or injured and doesn’t need to be chased back into the water or need water poured over him. So please keep your distance, keep dogs on leashes in the area and do your best not to disturb him. If you are concerned for his welfare, contact the relevant local authorities.
This species continues to qualify for listing by IUCN list of threatened species. Elephant seals play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems. Protecting them is important for several reasons. Firstly, they are top predators, controlling the population of certain prey species and preventing overgrazing of marine resources. This helps maintain a diverse and healthy ecosystem.
Secondly, elephant seals contribute to nutrient cycling. Their excrement is rich in nutrients, and when they haul out on land, it acts as a fertiliser, promoting the growth of vegetation in coastal areas. This, in turn, supports various other species, including seabirds and invertebrates.
Additionally, elephant seals are indicators of the overall health of the marine environment. Monitoring their populations and behaviours can provide valuable insights into the state of the ocean, including potential threats such as pollution or climate change.
By protecting elephant seals, we are essentially safeguarding the intricate web of life in the oceans and ensuring the resilience of marine ecosystems for future generations.