Bid to save Namibian seal pups

2009-07-02 12:33

Windhoek - In a bid to save tens of thousands of baby seals being killed for their fur, Namibia animal rights activist are rushing to raise millions of dollars to buy out a fur company that buys the pelts.

The annual commercial seal harvesting season officially opened on Wednesday with a quota of 85 000 pups due to be clubbed to death on the Namibian coast.

"I got the offer from the Australian-based owner Hatem Yavuz to buy out his company for $14.2m by mid-July and I have started an international online appeal to raise the funds," Francois Hugo of Seal Alert South Africa, a seal rehabilitation centre, told AFP by telephone from Cape Town.

"I have placed the plea on YouTube and Facebook over the weekend requesting individuals worldwide to pledge $15 each until the target is reached and many offers have already reached us," Hugo added.

"Hatem Yavuz even offered to delay for two weeks the culling of the Cape Fur Seal pups and the shooting of 6 000 bulls by his Namibian partner companies which were allocated the quotas," Hugo added.

Seal pelts and traditional medicines

The original deadline set by Yavuz last Friday to raise the money by July 1 was too short, he said.

However an official in the Namibian fisheries ministry said the cull would kick off on Wednesday, as agreed.

The ministry set a three-year rolling quota back in 2007 of 85 000 seal pups annually plus 6000 bulls each year to contain Namibia's total seal population of some 850 000 animals.

The bulls' dried genitals are popular in China where they are used for traditional medicines.

More than 3 200 online signatures were put on the internet portal Facebook by late Tuesday with an additional petition by an Australian animal rights group launched separately, urging the fur company owner in an open letter to stop buying seal pelts from Namibia.

In May this year, the European Union banned imports and exports of all seal products in their 27 member states, including transporting these products through the EU to other parts of the world.

The sparsely populated southern African country is famous for its wildlife and deserts, especially along its Atlantic "skeleton coast". The seals live on a group of islands off the southern coast.