Rescuing Hout Bay Harbour Seals from Exploitation

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On Wednesday 8th November 2023, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA took legal action to obtain a court order from the Wynberg Magistrates Court for the seizure of 5 seals subjected to abuse and exploitation at the Hout Bay Harbour.  The seals have endured various illegal activities, including beatings, overfeeding and being forced to engage in various physical interactions with humans —all driven by human need for entertainment and financial gain.

All of these activities are illegal under the Threatened or Protected Marine Species Regulations 2017 and the City of Cape Town Coastal Marine By Law and despite interventions (including the arrest of perpetrators and the issuing of fines) by the authorities, including the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), the City’s Law Enforcement, and the SPCA, the activities have continued.

This is simply because of the financial reward payed to the seal “handlers” who charge tourists for the opportunity to feed or engage with them and take photographs of their experience.

A report was received of a seal being beaten with this plank of wood.
Save Seals! Skip the Selfies! 

Aside from being illegal, these actions are also morally reprehensible, because ultimately wild animals pay the price for human interactions.  Aside from the cruel training methods that are being practised, the seals are unable to express their natural behaviours and are being grossly overfed. 2 seals are obese, a condition that has resulted from their training, their inability to express their natural behaviour, including swimming and hunting for their own food, as well as been continuously fed by individuals who wish to pose for selfies or interact with a wild animal. In addition to this the seals have become unnaturally accustomed to humans. This poses a danger to both humans and seals alike, with seals becoming reliant on humans for food and humans being placed at risk of injury when the expectation for food is not met.

A Critical Intervention To Save The Seals

This past weekend, the seals were relocated 900km away to an undisclosed location for their own protection and in the hopes that they will not be able to find their way back to the harbour again.  We hope that this will afford them the opportunity to live in an environment free of coercion and abuse and where they can freely express their natural behaviours.  We went the distance for them quite literally but it was worth it!

As advocates for wild animals with a strong belief that a life of captivity in a zoo or similar alternative would only allow their exploitation and suffering to continue, their relocation was our only option aside from humane euthanasia, something we chose to avoid. Unfortunately, if our efforts fail, this will be the only remaining option and the seals will pay unfairly with their lives for the selfish and thoughtless behaviour of humans.

Chief Inspector Jaco Pieterse says “Exploiting these wild animals for the sake of getting a good picture for your social media platforms is not only morally and ethically wrong, it also perpetuates a cycle of abuse and cruelty. Please prioritise their welfare over how many likes and shares you can generate online.”

Wild Animals Belong in The Wild 

Home Free and Not an Abuser in Sight! 

We extend our thanks to the City of Cape Town for their support of this initiative and the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust for the provision of financial aid that makes our work with wild animals possible. 

4 vehicles each towing a horse box transported the seals 900km to a safe destination

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