Done with moulting

2019-02-12 06:00
Buffel plays in the sand as moulting is finished. PHOTO: evelyn lyle

Buffel plays in the sand as moulting is finished. PHOTO: evelyn lyle

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Buffel, the elephant seal at Fish Hoek beach, has finished moulting but will remain at the beach for a few more weeks, Animal Ocean confirmed on their Facebook page.

“Buffel the elephant seal has completed his moult on Fish Hoek beach. His new skin and fur is much darker,” reads a post from the page. “He’s become a local superstar, with flocks of people coming down to the beach to see him. Online and print news is featuring this special visitor. Buffel doesn’t seem to mind the people, dogs and general commotion around him.

“The old fur is completely off and the new skin and fur much darker. He’s even moved closer to the buildings on Fish Hoek beachfront.”

Moulting is a process of shedding old skin or fur to make way for a new growth. This can take up to a month. During the moult, the seal remains on land as the process of moulting renders it sensitive to changing temperatures and therefore it avoids the water. During this period, the seal generally does not feed as it is able to sustain itself through its blubber (fat reserve).

And with Buffel getting more attention from beachgoers, some people still don’t know what to do around him, prompting the City of Cape Town and the National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to release a joint statement.

According to the statement, the City and DEA received reports regarding the harassment of an elephant seal.

Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt, says: “The City and DEA requests that the public respect the elephant seal during this period and stay at least 10 metres away when viewing and photographing him. Tape has been put up to demarcate the area and residents are to please abide by this. We urge that parents also ensure that their children are kept under close supervision and don’t go within 10m of the animal. Beachgoers who plan to walk their dogs should keep them on a leash at all times within 50m of the animal. We ask that you please do not attempt to feed the seal, throw water on it or create any other unnecessary disturbance within close proximity to the animal.

“In particular, taking selfies with your back turned to the animal and within close proximity is strictly prohibited. These seals can also move deceptively fast when on the beach and are extremely dangerous when they feel uneasy or cornered. While this particular seal seems to be relaxed, please note that it is a wild animal that can inflict a serious bite and its behaviour is unpredictable.”

The City, in partnership with Shark Spotters, has decided to station one of the Shark Spotters at the seal for the remainder of the time that he is on the shore to ensure that he is not interfered with. The public is encouraged to please give the seal space until it is ready to go back out to sea and to listen to the Shark Spotter’s instructions.

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