Bayworld Oceanarium

Cape Fur Seal

Common name: Cape Fur Seal

Scientific name: Arctocephalus pusillus

Cape fur seals are the only species resident on the South African coast. They are brown in colour, with some individuals being greyer or redder in colour. Pups are pitch black for the first few month of life. This species is the largest of the fur seals. Adult males average 247 kg in weight, while adult females average 57 kg. Pups are around 6 kg at birth. While females become mature at 3-6 years, males only mature at 9-12 years. They are polygynous, with males establishing territories on offshore islands or rocks during the summer breeding season. Pups are born from late October to January. Mothers look after their pups for 11 months. They alternate time ashore with the pup, with periods of a few days to a few weeks at sea feeding.

Cape fur seals are generalist foragers. They prefer small pelagic fish but will take benthic fish, squid, lobsters and prawns. They generally feed between the surface and 60 metres deep. The maximum recorded depth of a dive is 204 metres. Cape fur seals are themselves an important prey species for various species of sharks, especially the great white shark.

Cape fur seals haulouts are found along the Southern African coast from Bahia dos Tigres in Angola to Algoa Bay. In the past, Cape fur seals bred on all the islands and offshore rocks in Algoa Bay and the population was 20 times larger than it is today. Numbers were dramatically reduced by sealing and today Cape fur seals in Algoa Bay are only found on the Black Rocks in the Bird Island group. Some 800 pups are born here per year. However, elsewhere, Cape fur seals have recovered from exploitation. The total population is around two million and has been stable for the last twenty years. Current threats include interactions with fisheries, marine pollution, and climate change.

In addition to resident Cape fur seals, Sammy, Lexi, Lucki, Lucy, Abby and Sandy, Bayworld also takes in many of these species for rehabilitation.

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